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Stich`s The Fragmentation of Reason: Preface to a Pragmatic Theory of Cognitive Evaluation

Cniversity of Windsor
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  • Philosophy


BookReview INFORMAL LOGIC XVI.2, Spring 1994 The Fragmentation of Reason: Preface to a Pragmatic Theory of Cognitive Evaluation by Stephen Stiehl MIRIAM SOLOMON Temple University Stich, Stephen (1990). The Fragmentation of Reason: Preface to a Pragmatic Theory of Cognitive Evaluation. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Pp. x, 1-181. ISBN 0-262- 19293-4. Cloth. US $25.00. Naturalistic epistemologists often draw on various traditional epistemological tech- niques and presuppositions. Usually, they make some use of analysis of ordinary con- cepts such as "knowledge" and "justifica- tion," and hold that the goal of inquiry in some way involves truth (as approximate truths or significant truths) or accurate rep- resentation (which is a close ally of corre- spondence truth).2 The Fragmentation of Reason is one of the few attempts at a more radical break with these epistemological traditions.3 Much of the book is concerned with witnessing and abetting the dissolution of traditional views about reason. A prag- matic4, pluralistic5 and relativistic6 view intended to replace the traditional frame- works is sketched out at the end. All of the discussion is focussed on, and fuelled by, the implications of experimental work on human reasoning (some early work is col- lected in Nisbett and Ross 1980 and Kahneman, Slovic and Tversky 1982) which show that humans frequently reason with heuristics that lead to conclusions other than those reached by doing formal logic, statistics or confirmation theory. Sa- lience and availability heuristics cause in- vestigators to assign inappropriate weight to a subset of the relevant data; the repre- sentativeness heuristic results in neglect of base rate statistical information, as well as inappropriate analogical reasoning. This experimental work, in its current stage of development7, challenges any easy assump- tion that human reasoning is generally ve- ridical. Stich argues that the usual philosophi- cal ways of responding to the

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