Why do humans reason? Arguments for an argumentative theory

Hugo Mercier, Dan Sperber, Website, May 30, 2011
Commentary by Stephen Downes

Interesting paper in which the authors argue that "The main function of reasoning is argumentative: Reasoning has evolved and persisted mainly because it makes human communication more effective and advantageous." The idea is that we come to conclusions by inference, which may (and often does) happen unconsciously, and that reasoning is the construction of representations that support the inference. But why would we do this, if we have already made the inference. The function of reason is to convince other people. "Reasoning contributes to the effectiveness and reliability of communication by allowing communicators to argue for their claim and by allowing addressees to assess these arguments." This is important, because it makes it clear that the psychological process we use to infer is not the same as the logical process we use to reason. See also this audio interview about the paper. For more on the same idea, see Sperber's publications page.
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