Showing posts with label philosophical explorations. Show all posts
Showing posts with label philosophical explorations. Show all posts

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Post Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc: Some Benefits of Rationalization

Jesse Summers (pictured above) is Adjunct Assistant Professor at Duke University, where he is also a Post-Doctoral Fellow at the Kenan Institute for Ethics, and a Lecturing Fellow for the Thompson Writing Program. In this post he writes about rationalization and some of its benefits, summarising his paper "Post Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc: Some Benefits of Rationalisation", which is forthcoming in a special issue of Philosophical Explorations on false but useful beliefs. The special issue is guest edited by Lisa Bortolotti and Ema Sullivan-Bissett and is inspired by project PERFECT's interests in belief.

You really shouldn’t trust me. At the very least, you shouldn’t trust me when I tell you why I’ve acted.

Part of the reason you shouldn’t trust me is that I often—much more often than I realize—don’t know why I’m doing something. The neuroscientist tells you that my brain predisposes me to act. Psychologists, too, assume that many factors and forces move me—my mood, habits from my youth, my environment, etc.—and I cannot hope to understand the way all of them influence me. And our folk psychological explanations of each other’s actions change how we praise and blame each other: “I’ll tell you why she really cancelled her trip to see you…”

Not only am I ignorant, but, despite that, I confidently explain my own actions. I confidently and sincerely explain why I left my current job, though no one else believes the explanation. It’s not just the neuroscientist and the psychologist who doubt my explanation: so does everyone who knows me well.