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Boudry Maarten | Other
2013-04-24 - 2013-10-11 | Research area: Cognition and Sociality
Method in Madness: Naturalized Epistemology and the Problem of Irrationality
In the Enlightenment tradition, the faculty of reason was viewed as a unique and defining characteristic of man. Irrationality was put in stark opposition to reason, which was assumed to be founded on universal and logic-based principles. Although this conception of reason has been challenged by advancements both in cognitive psychology and philosophy of science, and in particular by the development of evolutionary theory, the philosophical views on irrationality are still steeped in the Enlightenment dualism between reason and unreason. This project aims to integrate irrationality in the framework of naturalized epistemology, which recognizes human reason as a biological faculty acquired over a long process of evolution. I will (i) investigate the role of reasoning heuristics and folk intuitions in the production of reasoning fallacies and irrational beliefs, (ii) spell out the implications of this approach for an evolutionary understanding of human cognition, and (iii) reconstruct how irrational belief systems develop and disseminate on a cultural level, by analyzing their cognitive appeal and their ‘resilience’ to adverse evidence. While salvaging what is valuable in Enlightenment philosophy, this research on ‘method in madness’ will challenge the traditional views on irrationality and contribute to a more realistic portrayal of human reason and its limitations.