What Is Rationality?
My intention in this book is quite modest. I would like to provide some
descriptions and arguments in support of various conceptions of the
nature of reason. Displaying a variety of points of view is necessary
because whatever anyone may think of it, what we mean when we refer
to a person as being rational in general, or having a reason for doing or
believing something in particular, is not only complex but also, in more
than the surface features, elusive, enigmatic, and mysterious. The pro-
cesses of reasoning, like all processes of reflection or modes of con-
sciousness, are not neatly laid out in a linear and determined way, as if
the processes were highways or railroad tracks.
Arguments that reason is a substance perceived clearly and distinctly
were popularized at the beginning of modern philosophy by René Des-
cartes. But the intervening centuries—especially the last two—have not
been particularly Cartesian. Many today consider most of Descartes’s
views on rationality excessively dogmatic. What I intend to do here,
however, is beyond pointing out the errors of others or adjudicating
centuries of argument. My goal is to assume the standpoint of twenty-
first-century philosophical interests, then try to find the most viable and
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