The Edge of Reason: A Rational Skeptic in an Irrational World

The Edge of Reason: A Rational Skeptic in an Irrational World

by Julian Baggini


View All Available Formats & Editions
Members save with free shipping everyday! 
See details


An urgent defense of reason, the essential method for resolving—or even discussing—divisive issues

Reason, long held as the highest human achievement, is under siege. According to Aristotle, the capacity for reason sets us apart from other animals, yet today it has ceased to be a universally admired faculty. Rationality and reason have become political, disputed concepts, subject to easy dismissal.
Julian Baggini argues eloquently that we must recover our reason and reassess its proper place, neither too highly exalted nor completely maligned. Rationality does not require a sterile, scientistic worldview, it simply involves the application of critical thinking wherever thinking is needed. Addressing such major areas of debate as religion, science, politics, psychology, and economics, the author calls for commitment to the notion of a “community of reason,” where disagreements are settled by debate and discussion, not brute force or political power. Baggini's insightful book celebrates the power of reason, our best hope—indeed our only hope—for dealing with the intractable quagmires of our time.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780300228724
Publisher: Yale University Press
Publication date: 11/14/2017
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 272
Sales rank: 1,201,902
Product dimensions: 5.10(w) x 7.80(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Julian Baggini is a philosopher, cofounder of The Philosopher’s Magazine, and author, coauthor, or editor of more than twenty books. He lives in Bristol, UK.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgements ix

Introduction 1

Part 1 The Judge 9

1 The Eternal God argument 11

2 Science for humans 37

3 Rationality and judgement 56

Part II The Guide 75

4 Lives of the mind 77

5 The challenge of psychology 92

6 Guided by reason 108

Part III The Motivator 141

7 Rational morality 143

8 Scientific morality 168

9 The claims of reason 180

Part IV The King 189

10 The rational state 191

11 Political reason 211

Conclusion: using reason 234

Notes 246

Bibliography 252

Index 258


In what ways should we be skeptical about reason?
Philosophers have often aspired to establish all the knowledge we need to understand ourselves, the world, and how to live on certain facts and principles of logic alone. That is a failed project.
Why do you think reason is so under siege today?
Reason was elevated on too high a pedestal, and when that became evident, we became disillusioned. Our mistake now is to think that because reason is not such a regal emperor, it therefore has no clothes at all.
Why is reason often seen as cold and dispassionate?
Because it is characterized only by its most impersonal aspects, exemplified by natural science. This is too narrow. Scientific reason is a form of reason, and a very powerful one, but it does not provide the model that all other reasoning should follow. We reason whenever we seek objective grounds for our beliefs, and there is no reason why these grounds should not include truths about our desires and emotional needs.
What role should reason play in our lives?
Personally, reason is what enables us to reflect on our goals, desires, and values and check that they are not mistaken or misguided. Politically, it is only by using the common currency of reason that we can resolve our differences and live together peacefully.

Customer Reviews