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Saturday, July 23, 2005

Accidental trilogy...

I just completed the third book in what has turned out to be an "accidental trilogy" on practical reason. I don't know whether my sense of practical reason is any clearer, but I am certainly more comfortable with the various writings in this area.

The first was Onora O'Neill's Toward Justice and Virtue -- which I've commented on in previous posts. I read this as I was working on the paper with Ciarán dealing with ethical dilemmas, and while it did not have a direct impact on the final product, I don't think I can approach the study of ethics in the future with the same degree of skepticism I have in the past. At bottom this was really a study in the application of Kantian practical reasoning to a major philosophical dilemma, and I learned a great deal from it.

Dennett's Sweet Dreams
(also commented on in previous posts) I read out of a continuing curiosity about Dennett's theory of consciousness, but as it turns out it too is a study in human reasoning (or at least the 'mechanics' of it) -- perhaps closer to Hume than to Kant.

The most recent read was Robert Fogelin's Walking the Tightrope of Reason, which I read because -- well, frankly because it happened to be sitting on the top of a stack of books I recently purchased. I tend to buy first and look later when it comes to books, and the stack of "merely pursued" books in my office is rather high (actually, several stacks of such...). But this one engaged me and I ended up consuming it rather quickly. It is relatively short (170 or so pages) and quite readable -- it seems to successfully straddle the line between an introductory overview of philosophy for the layperson and a work written for Fogelin's peers (as the author said he intended). What it amounts to is a systematic argument for taking a practical approach to human reasoning -- one that avoids the pitfalls of too much philosophizing without reverting to complete skepticism.

Having completed Fogelin, I am now going to return to another work with a similar theme and focus that I abandoned two years ago as I prepared for my time in Belfast -- Toulmin's Return to Reason.

Who knows, after all this I might emerge a 'reasonable" person....

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