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Free Speech and Tact posted 10 February 2006 in Philosophy DiscussionFree Speech and Tact by Peter, Auditor

While I believe that humans are influenced, and sometimes controlled, by myriad forces (fear being primary among them), I also believe that reason can counter this to some degree. I do not think that this affects the point I was trying to make. Even if we accept the unlikely position that Reason is an absolute and incorruptable way to determine Truth, it does not necessarily follow that we would be capable of using it to this end.


I think reason is not the only way to determine truth, but it is the only coherent way where we think truth (if it is there) will follow from our actions. If our reasoning is correct, if we are not basing our thinking on false or biased premises and if we are careful not to draw too much from our conclusions then we will begin to approach something resembling truth.

On an aside I include empirical reasoning in our use of reason, not merely logical.

Otherwise, I think I am probably a little more optimistic about reason being able to determine truth than you seem to be, but that is hardly a substantive point of disagreement (at least I don't think it is).

If you mean that reason is really a part of some sort of deep intuition in all humans, I might just agree with you...


I am very wary of the notion of "intuition". It is used in far too many contexts to justify far too much for its use here to be unproblematic (I think at least). Reason is basic, and it is not justified in the same way that we justify say our belief that water is H2O, but this does not mean that we intuit reason and that therefore reasonable discourse is fundamentally no different from conversations which begin "Well, my gut feeling tells me that...". If this isn't what you mean by intuition (and I can certainly see why it wouldn't be) then ignore the above.

I would argue that reason is more the minimum presupposition we have to make in order to be able to make the claim that we understand something about the world. If we assert that we do understand something about the world (and I think we can make this claim) then we have to assert reason. That is as good a justification as we can get for our use of reason, but I would also want to assert that at least logic, like maths, holds whether or not we ever think it (i.e. 2+2=4 is true independently of our study of maths, just like the law of logic that a thing cannot be and not be at the same time).

I would not ever try to deny this. I simply feel that Rellion's questions were inadequate. I was asserting my belief that his 'either or' questions are not, in my opinion, sufficient to cover the complex and important possible influences on these Muslim protests against the West. I hope, as always, that it is understood that my reply was meant to challenge, not to insult


First off, I at least, viewed your reply as a challenge rather than an insult, hence why I replied (not on Rellion's behalf, as if Rellion could not do so himself, but because there were points I wanted to make). I think that whilst there are a great many complexities in the issue, this does not mean that we cannot say that we think the reactions we are seeing from certain people are unreasonable.

The theory of ethics I follow would not allow for the complexities of regional and cultural history to undo the unreasonableness of the reactions of some people, for reason stands above (or perhaps underneath) all culture (I know I haven't specifically argued this, but I find it difficult to see how one could make logic and empirical reasoning relative to culture etc.). What it would allow is that we recognise that this history, this sense of being under attack, all allow us to reduce any blame we might be willing to apportion out. This might sound highly patronising, but I don't think it is. All it says is that sometimes people do wrong, but that they should not really be held responsible for this, because their situation was so hard. For instance, in the novel Sophie's Choice, Sophie is sent to Auschwitz and has to choose which of her two children is to be gassed and which is to be saved. In this case we may well think that there is a moral choice, but there is no way we will hold Sophie responsible for failing to make the right decision when we consider the psychological and moral stress she will be under.

You do not need to know the Truth to determine the existence of a bias--you simply need conflicting reports of a given event. I sometimes like to read and view a number of media reports, in different publications, in different English-speaking countries, relating to a single event. It is a fascinating, if frightening experience, to try to track the truth through such a muddle of different perspectives. I can only imagine (or trust second-hand) what non-English speaking countries might have to report... I did not claim (by implication or otherwise) that I know the Truth, and that no one else does or could. Again, I had hoped that I was making it clear by my tone how difficult it is for anyone to determine the Truth amidst all these various influences.


Ok, I take you point. Nonetheless, the mere fact that you

Yeah, I wish you weren't right (well I think you are right, maybe I am wrong though...). Hey let's all get depressed at the state of the world, Yay.
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