Philosophy, Politics and Economics Program
University of Pennsylvania
The evolution of reasoning as an argumentative mechanism
Monday, October 10, 2011
AA-G008, 5:00 PM
Reasoning is generally seen as a means for the lone reasoner to improve knowledge and make better decisions. However, much evidence shows that reasoning often leads to epistemic distortions and poor decisions. This suggests that the function of reasoning should be rethought. Based on the theory of the evolution of communication, Sperber has suggested that the function of reasoning is argumentative: to devise and evaluate arguments intended to persuade. I will argue that a wide range of evidence in the psychology of reasoning and decision making and in social psychology can be reinterpreted and better explained in light of this hypothesis.
Hugo Mercier is a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Pennsylvania. His work has focused on reasoning and argumentation. He is working on a series of articles that cover this issue from different perspectives – developmental, cross-cultural, political, and historical.
- Mercier, Hugo and Sperber, Dan. 2011. “Why do humans reason? Arguments for an argumentative theory.” Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 34:57-111. [PDF]