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by Stephen Toulmin
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Philosophy
  • Author:
    Stephen Toulmin
  • ISBN:
    0674012356
  • ISBN13:
    978-0674012356
  • Genre:
  • Publisher:
    Harvard University Press (September 30, 2003)
  • Pages:
    256 pages
  • Subcategory:
    Philosophy
  • Language:
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    1181 kb
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    1436 kb
  • DJVU format
    1379 kb
  • Rating:
    4.4
  • Votes:
    652
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The turmoil and brutality of the twentieth century have made it increasingly difficult to maintain faith in the ability of reason to fashion a stable and peaceful world.

The turmoil and brutality of the twentieth century have made it increasingly difficult to maintain faith in the ability of reason to fashion a stable and peaceful world. After the ravages of global conflict and a Cold War that divided the world's loyalties, how are we to master our doubts and face the twenty-first century with hope? In Return to Reason, Stephen Toulmin argues that the potential for reason to improve our lives has been hampered by a serious imbalance in our pursuit of knowledge.

In Return to Reason, Stephen Toulmin argues that the potential for reason to improve our lives has been hampered by a serious imbalance in our pursuit of knowledge

In Return to Reason, Stephen Toulmin argues that the potential for reason to improve our lives has been hampered by a serious imbalance in our pursuit of knowledge. The centuries-old dominance of rationality, a mathematical mode of reasoning modeled on theory and universal certainties, has diminished the value of reasonableness, a system of humane judgments based on personal experience and practice.

Throughout Return to Reason, Toulmin calmly addresses complex situations arising in modern disciplines. Indeed, the knack he shows for reasonableness illustrates his thesis. His book is both a diagnosis and, by example, a cure for what ails our scientific culture. Thomas D'Evelyn, Christian Science Monitor. Fine and dandy: he writes nicely and with a wide-ranging curiosity in literature and the history of ideas.

The book by Sabina Ebbersmeyer, Homo agens. Studien zur Genese und Struktur fruhhumanistischer Moralphilosophie, Berlin, Walter De Gruyter 2010, fills a major gap in the historiography on modern ethics, which usually neglects the contribution of the XVth century humanistic philosophy, jumping directly from Ockham to Machiavelli, and then to the Reformation. This book offers a general.

Stephen Edelston Toulmin (/ˈtuːlmɪn/; 25 March 1922 – 4 December 2009) was a British philosopher, author, and educator. Influenced by Ludwig Wittgenstein, Toulmin devoted his works to the analysis of moral reasoning. Throughout his writings, he sought to develop practical arguments which can be used effectively in evaluating the ethics behind moral issues. His works were later found useful in the field of rhetoric for analyzing rhetorical arguments.

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Stephen Toulmin argues that the potential for reason to improve our lives has been hampered by a serious imbalance in our pursuit of. .Toulmin issues a powerful call to redress the balance between rationality and reasonableness.

Stephen Toulmin argues that the potential for reason to improve our lives has been hampered by a serious imbalance in our pursuit of knowledge. The centuries-old dominance of rationality has diminished the value of reasonableness.

Stephen Toulmin, an influential philosopher who conducted wide-ranging inquiries into ethics, science and moral reasoning and developed a new approach to analyzing arguments known as the Toulmin model of argumentation, died on Dec. 4 in Los Angeles. He was 87. The cause was heart failure, said his son Greg. Mr. Toulmin, a disciple of Ludwig Wittgenstein, earned his undergraduate degree in mathematics and physics, and throughout his long philosophical career showed a marked inclination to ground his ideas in real-world situations.

The turmoil and brutality of the twentieth century have made it increasingly difficult to maintain faith in the ability of reason to fashion a stable and peaceful world. After the ravages of global conflict and a Cold War that divided the world's loyalties, how are we to master our doubts and face the twenty-first century with hope?

In Return to Reason, Stephen Toulmin argues that the potential for reason to improve our lives has been hampered by a serious imbalance in our pursuit of knowledge. The centuries-old dominance of rationality, a mathematical mode of reasoning modeled on theory and universal certainties, has diminished the value of reasonableness, a system of humane judgments based on personal experience and practice. To this day, academic disciplines such as economics and professions such as law and medicine often value expert knowledge and abstract models above the testimony of diverse cultures and the practical experience of individuals.

Now, at the beginning of a new century, Toulmin sums up a lifetime of distinguished work and issues a powerful call to redress the balance between rationality and reasonableness. His vision does not reject the valuable fruits of science and technology, but requires awareness of the human consequences of our discoveries. Toulmin argues for the need to confront the challenge of an uncertain and unpredictable world, not with inflexible ideologies and abstract theories, but by returning to a more humane and compassionate form of reason, one that accepts the diversity and complexity that is human nature as an essential beginning for all intellectual inquiry.


Ttyr
This book's message seems rather straightforward, stimulating, and more or less plausible, but the development and presentation of its core ideas are somewhat fuzzy. For starters, the term "rationality" is not explicitly defined, and the sense in which this highly overloaded word is employed here is left to the reader to infer. My take is that the author's usage refers to a "procedural" rationality that observes the norms of the scientific method, and in consequence applies rigorous methods in theory formulation. In any case, however, it is not clear how rationality could necessarily exclude or inhibit reasonableness, except in obtuse practice.

On page 203, it is stated that "the recovery of Reasonableness can restore the concept of Rationality to the richness" deprived it by Descartes. So reasonableness can temper the exercise and efficacy of rationality, as through some judicious combination thereof. This is essentially what I take Holton's thematic dimension to portray - in actual, historical scientific practice (see Chapter 1 of "Thematic Origins of Scientific Thought"). This dimension includes "fundamental presuppositions, notions, terms, methodological judgments, and decisions". These are all unverifiable and unfalsifiable elements, in contrast with the content of Holton's analytic-empirical plane that is orthogonal to the thematic dimension. In any case, the Enlightenment's legacy has of course included the exaggeration of the capabilities of rationality. Or more apropos here, their uncritical or inappropriate deployment has clearly resulted in such excesses or failures as Toulmin regrets.

Another case of message clouding pertains to the tension between reasonableness and rationality that appears on page 2. Here these two concepts are purported to be complementary, i.e., polar opposites. Instead, the opposite of rationality would seem to be spontaneity, impulsivity, or extemporization. Reasonableness would then lie along the continuum between rationality (rigorous rule following) and spontaneity (intuitive redirection), in the form of rationality augmented by spontaneity. Such spontaneity would yield the often-decisive bursts of opportunistic insight that propel scientific advances. This continuum is analogous to Hammond's analytical-intuitive continuum. Moreover, his term quasirationality is a very apt synonym for generic reasonableness (see Chapter 6 of "Human Judgment and Social Policy").

Alas, my above of construal of reasonableness is apparently not what Toulmin had in mind. I see reasonableness as in fact largely augmenting the rigorous scientific effort associated with Holton's aforementioned analytic-empirical plane. Research legitimately associated with this plane itself constitutes idealized hard science, and efforts in the thematic-axis are facilitative scaffolding that embodies reasonableness. In contrast, after Toulmin characterizes clinical practice, historical case studies, and action research, etc., he seems to equate such efforts with reasonableness itself. Moreover, in his explication, this variety of reasonableness displaces rather than augments rationality. Such practices are undoubtedly efficacious in many cases, but these sorts of activities hardly constitute or resemble science.

Furthermore, the author's rejection of Popper et al.'s contention that the theory of evolution is not bone fide science appears to rest on the author's implication that reasonableness of narrative or argument per se may stand as science. However, any such resultant theory is inherently speculative, unverifiable, and unfalsifiable. To designate such tenuous or lightweight caliber of theory as science is "unreasonable". That would call for a rather loose definition of the term science, or else a substantial qualification of the author's usage, to render the term science so broadly inclusive.

Beyond these not insignificant reservations, I found "Return to Reason" to be a stimulating and in parts an enlightening read. The author's tracing of the trajectory of reasoning and its attendant predispositions from antiquity through modernity was quite illuminating, especially with regard to the post-Enlightenment divergence into an inordinate fixation on a strict or compulsive version of rationality. As this book is the fourth by Toulmin that I have read, it happens that I do admire his original and provocative thinking. As the following commentary reveals, certain of the ideas and conclusions presented in the subject book rather strongly resonate with me.

For example, for several centuries now, rationality has been an obsession if not a fetish in attempts to confer scientific authority or credibility across all disciplines, especially with respect to aspiring human sciences. Moreover, the success of physicists in achieving dramatic if misinterpreted advances since the Enlightenment has induced other disciplines to emulate their methods in rather pretentious, naive, or self-conscious ways. Such indiscriminate emulation has yielded generally disappointing results, but fortunately this fad now seems to be in substantial decline. Toulmin's generally applicable prescription is that each discipline should apply methods suited to its own nature and to the particular challenge at hand. That advice has hardly been disregarded altogether in the past by the hard sciences.

Despite my stated reservations, this is a quite worthwhile book, with a lot of valuable coverage on supporting topics like rhetoric versus logic, substantive versus theoretical argument, abstraction versus situatedness, undue generalization, and clinical practice. Toulmin offers us much here upon which to reflect, as well as major points with which to disagree perhaps, i.e., genuine intellectual stimulation.
Weernis
Although there is little radically new in this book, it is a nice summary of the Stephen Toulmin's approach to logic and reason -- a perspective that he developed beginning with his book, "Uses of Argument." Not enough attention has been given to his work on reason since that early important statement. Toulimin not only differentiates between logic and reason, but also makes a case for understanding reason in case application as different in important ways from reason by scientific principles. Those interested in extensions of Wittgenstein's later philosophy, the development of Toulmin's understanding of reason, communication & argumentation theory, Dewey's logic (1938) and more broadly in praxis, will want this book.
invasion
Have enjoyed many of this author's books. Gives an analysis that helps keep my thinking in line to reach a good, substantiated result. You must always consider the results of any claim.
Felolak
Living with the Genie: Essays On Technology And The Quest For Human Mastery

This is an important book, but also a disappointing one. The critique of "rationality" in its naïve forms, such as geometric logic and rational choice theory, as applied to social issues, and the endorsement of the importance of tacit (and I would add "local") knowledge are well taken. But the alternative of relying on "reason" is not elaborated in ways which are useful for coping with the pressing issues of humanity (and of the social sciences). "Common sense" is not discussed and is in any case no good for coping with "uncommon problems," the work of the Santa Fe Institute on Complexity is several times mentioned favorably without critical examination, chaos theory is complimented despite its limited usefulness beyond some illuminating metaphors, a case approach to moral issues is recommended though it does not work for novel and unique situations in the absence of theoretic-philosophic guidelines, and so on.

Charles Sanders Peirce, the founder of pragmatism, recognized the limits of induction and deduction, but proposed "abduction" as a form of "educated guess" as a basis for "pragmatic" theories that can serve as grounding for action. Modular and temporal logic also provide approaches which are not "rational" in the strict sense, but are much more than "reason" in the vague meanings discussed in the book. No such positive contributions to urgently needed new ways of "pondering" are provided by this book.

Humanity, for the first time in its history, has the ability, as supplied by science and technology, to eliminate itself (deliberately or unintentionally), to create a new post-human species, or to thrive pluralistically. But, to avoid self-destruction and decide on the other options, unprecedented global policies are required, involving for instance intrusive regulation of the production and uses of knowledge and technologies - approximating some features of a, hopefully benevolent, Global Leviathan directed by a small number of superpowers.

The author is right: Geometric thinking, including modern derivatives such as theory of games, will not help in pondering such options. But neither will "reason" in its classical meanings, such as "practical knowledge, past-based tacit knowledge and case-pragmatism. Instead, essential is a novel type of "melody of the mind" based inter alia on interaction between conjectural theories, responsible revaluation of values, much creativity, and explicit and tacit a feel for historic processes.

The author is to be complimented in posing the need to think in terms of "futuribles," that is alternative perhaps possible futures. He helps to clear away some of the barriers to doing so. But he provides no guidance how to do the required thinking and on what to base it.

Professor Yehezkel Dror
The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
[email protected]