The Effects of Silencing
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Pragmatic justification

A NYTimes blogpost on recent research that supports pragmatic justification of truth.  An excerpt:

The key point is that justification — and therefore knowledge of the truth — is a social process.  This need not mean that claims are true because we come to rational agreement about them.  But such agreement, properly arrived at, is the best possible justification of a claim to truth.  For example, our best guarantee that stars are gigantic masses of hot gas is that scientists have developed arguments for this claim that almost anyone who looks into the matter will accept.

This pragmatic view understands seeking the truth as a special case of trying to win an argument: not winning by coercing or tricking people into agreement, but by achieving agreement through honest arguments.  The important practical conclusion is that finding the truth does require winning arguments, but not in the sense that my argument defeats yours.  Rather, we find an argument that defeats all contrary arguments.  Sperber and Mercier in fact approach this philosophical view when they argue that, on their account, reasoning is most problematic when carried out by isolated individuals and is most effective when carried out in social groups.


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