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Reasoning: A Social Picture

Reasoning-bookcoverThinking about reasoning suffers from a failure of vision. Philosophers, social scientists, and others who discuss and analyze reasoning have a particular activity in view: reasoning to figure things out, solve problems, and reach judgments. But there is a different activity we engage in that we call reasoning. We reason in the course of living together, when we are responsive to those with whom we live and neither commanding nor deferring to them, neither manipulating nor ignoring them. Analysis of this second kind of activity has relied on the tools and frameworks developed to make sense of the first kind of activity.

In this book (Oxford University Press, 2012), Anthony Simon Laden invites his readers to approach this activity of reasoning on its own terms. He claims that if we are to truly see and appreciate the role and value of reasoning in living together, we need a new, social picture of the activity of reasoning. According to the social picture of reasoning developed here, reasoning is a species of conversation, and like casual conversation is social and ongoing. It is neither defined nor determined by its end, although it is governed by a set of characteristic norms. It consists of inviting others to accept that our words can speak for them as well. Reasoning: A Social Picture proposes an attractive new approach to thinking about how to live together, reasonably.


Part I: An Alternative Picture
1. The Initial Sketch
2. Authority
3. The Rational Significance of Conversation

Part II: Reasoning Together
4. Norms of Conversation
5. Reasoning as Responsive Conversation
6. Engaged Reasoning

Part III: Responding
7. Responding Reasonably
8. Reasonable Responses
9. Intelligible Responses

Anthony Simon Laden is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Illinois, Chicago. He is the author of “Reasonably Radical: Deliberative Liberalism and the Politics of Identity” (Cornell University Press, 2001) and co-editor (w. David Owen) of “Multiculturalism and Political Theory” (Cambridge University Press, 2007).

Robert Talisse interviews Anthony Laden on his new book here (“New Books in Philosophy”).

Also be sure to see scholar Peter Levine’s thoughtful post on the book on his long-running blog at http://peterlevine.ws/?p=11432.

Resource Link: www.amazon.com/Reasoning-Picture-Anthony-Simon-Laden/dp/0199606196

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