Rationality and Fallibilism

  • Danny Frederick
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Classical Liberalism book series (PASTCL)


Dogmatic philosophers see rational thought or action as being that which conforms with the forces or the dictates of Reason. In contrast, I offer a critical account. First, after rejecting the theories of Aristotle, Bill Brewer, John Broome, René Descartes, and Christine Korsgaard, I explain deductive reasoning as guessing, testing and freely deciding. I expound Lewis Carroll’s puzzle about deduction before repudiating Gilbert Ryle’s celebrated solution. Second, I outline how philosophers’ attempts to understand knowledge typically founder on the problem of scepticism, before explaining Karl Popper’s revolutionary solution in terms of conjecture, criticism and methodological rules. Third, I discuss and reject solutions offered by contemporary decision theory to decision problems afflicted by risk, ignorance and uncertainty, and I offer solutions in terms of guessing and testing. I consider some well-known decision problems involving trapped miners and a doctor, and I expose the confusions of Niko Kolodny and John MacFarlane, of Peter Graham, and of Helen Steward. I discuss the matter of blame before considering how we can decide what to do when we cannot know what we ought to do. Finally, I contrast my Popper-inspired approach to practical and theoretical reasoning and rationality with traditional and contemporary ones.


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Authors and Affiliations

  • Danny Frederick
    • 1
  1. 1.Independent ScholarYeovilUK

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