virus: Pancritical rationality

Tony Hindle (
Thu, 3 Apr 1997 18:20:29 +0100

In message <>, "Wright, James 7929"
<> writes
>Please define "pancritical rationality"

I have included some bits from an article on pancritical
rationality that I commented on and sent to Dave (he never responded so
I asumed I wasnt miles away with my thinking).
Dave should still know where the full article is (I cant
remember, I still have it on disc but dont want to send it all cos its
loads of disc space and I remember Dave once mentioning that he was
running out.

An axiomatic
concept is the identification of a primary fact of reality, which cannot
be analyzed, i.e., reduced to other facts or broken into component
parts. It is implicit in all facts and in all knowledge. It is the
fundamentally given and directly perceived or experienced, which
requires no proof or explanation, but on which all proofs and
explanations rest." Theists have made exactly parallel statement,
replacing "axiomatic concepts" with "God" or "The Bible".
I see, you are refusing to accept any axioms whatsoever. This makes
sense to me.

The closed nature of the philosophy (objectivism)naturally resulted from
its purportedly certain foundations and epistemically certain
So something that is closed is not open to change no matter what
new discoveries are made.
Perhaps such philosophies do so well because they appeal to a part of
our psychology that requires certainty. if we stay within this closed
system then we are on solid ground which has been checked out by minds
far superior to our own. Provided we dont drift outside of our closed
system we are safe?
Unlike Objectivism, Extropian thought has never claimed to be either
complete or closed. On the contrary, embodied in the guiding Principles
(version-numbered to help ward off stagnation) we find the imperative to
continually self-criticize, reevaluate, and revise. this sounds like
what I assumed cov was all about.

For example:
"Extropians affirm reason, critical inquiry, intellectual independence,
and honesty. We reject blind faith and the passive, comfortable thinking
that leads to dogma, mysticism, and conformity... Extropians therefore
feel proud by readily learning from error rather than by professing
infallibility...That describes how I want to be.

Any argument involves both presuppositions and
epistemic standards, which themselves require justification in turn.
Argumentation thus leads to an infinite regress of justification, with
each new supporting reason itself requiring justification. Unless we
reach some indisputable, bedrock position, the original proposition
remains unjustified. To justify the original contention, some
unquestionable authority must be reached. Such standards, criteria, or
ultimate presuppositions are simply accepted without further
justification. I saw this as a major drawback of not having foundations
that are self evident, however when we abandon this atempt to find
certainty (at least realise it is an impossible goal) I can see how it
can be more fruitfull. A new aproach is to make explicit our mutual
asumptions then work together to get new ideas which are valid within
our assumptions.

The skeptic reacts to this situation by holding that since nothing can
be supported rationally, we should (try to) suspend judgment about
everything. Such a position is hard to live by: How, for example, can we
go about our lives while refusing to accept the validity of inductive
inferences? David Hume, the disturbing philosopher who first
demonstrated the impossibility of justifying induction, found that when
he left his philosophical study, he was unable to prevent himself from
believing in the procedure that, in his reflective moments, he believed
to be irrational. This conflict of practical action and theoretical
belief has bothered generations of thinkers familiar with Hume's
skeptical writings. Yes this is important.

Pancritical Rationalism solves the problem by doing away with the need
for induction, replacing it with the falsification of scientific laws in
terms of observational statements.
Can you expand on this please?

Modern foundationalists have dethroned these and
installed beliefs about appearances, or sense-data, as the specially
privileged foundations of all justified belief.
This foundationalism can still be very usefull (essential even?) but our
mutual assumptions are our (temporary) privaledged foundations.

When it became generally accepted that even Kant's attempted fusion of
intellectualism and rationalism into a new form of panrationalism had
collapsed, many rationalists took refuge in pragmatism or
instrumentalism. Their inability to justify some of their most basic and
significant ideas and procedures was no problem, they now said, since
beliefs in such things as scientific laws or in the existence of other
minds were not, after all, descriptions of reality. Rather than
describing the world, such ideas are instruments, tools, or symbols that
help us find our way around. These beliefs are not justified on a
factual basis grounded in sense experience, but only only on the basis
of their utility in making predictions or in classifying the objects of
experience. Ok this is me actually, instrumentalist.
I cant see the difference between this and pancritical rationalism.

If we are to reject one of the two criteria for rationalism, it should
be the second because (a) we surely will not want to abandon the
requirement that a rationalist accept any proposition that can be
rationally justified; and (b) the second requirement is
self-contradictory. The proposition that only positions that can be
justified or established by appeal to rational argument are to be
accepted cannot itself be justified by appeal to rational criteria. By
its own imperative, if the second requirement is true, it must be
rejected. The requirement thereby asserts its own untenability.
self referentialy wierd

We should not accept the second principle because we should recognize
that some statements, beliefs, and criteria at any time must be simply
accepted without argument because they form the starting point for
argument. As Popper puts it: "Since all argument must proceed from
assumptions, it is plainly impossible to demand that all assumptions
should be based on argument."
Ok this bit is nice and clear.

(The Open Society, 230) Of course, an
assumption accepted without justification in order to start a particular
line of argument might later, in the context of a different argument,
become the object of justification. Significant results cannot be
obtained from argument if we accede to the demand to start with no
assumptions, or even to the weaker demand that we start with a very
small set of assumptions such as the Kantian "categories" or Rand's
"axiomatic concepts". Comprehensive rationalism or panrationalism falls
down by being unable to justify itself. The rationalist attitude can be
based neither upon argument nor experience, for a rationalist attitude
must first be adopted if any argument or experience is to move a person.
Only those who have already adopted this attitude will be convinced by
arguments in its favor.
How this makes me think we are all in danger of commiting the
same fallacy as bible bashers.

"Since there can be no
proof that what we take to be good evidence really is so", then "it is
not sensible to demand one." (Ayer, p.81) Mmmmm

Popper's critical rationalism also suffers from fideism, although he is
at least open about it, as we can see in this passage from The Open
Society and Its Enemies, where he proposes to adopt a "minimum
concession to irrationalism." [p.416-17] He writes:
whoever adopts the rationalist attitude does so because he has adopted,
without reasoning, some proposal or decision,or belief, or habit, or
behavior, which therefore in its turn must be called irrational.
Whatever it may be, we can describe it as an irrational faith in reason
.... the fundamental rationalist attitude is based upon an irrational
decision, or upon faith in reason. Accordingly, our choice is open. We
are free to choose some form of irrationalism, even some radical or
comprehensive form. But we are also free to choose a critical form of
rationalism,one which frankly admits its limitations, and its basis in
an irrational decision (and so far, a certain priority for
irrationalism). This is making me think that fruitfull comunication is
good is an axiom. Rationalism is a way tht two unconnected minds can
come to the same memetic content before making contact.

When PCR replaces authoritarian justification with unbounded criticism,
holding all positions to be criticizable, it means (in Bartley's words):
"(1) it is not necessary, in criticism, in order to avoid infinite
regress, to declare a dogma that could not be criticized (since it was
unjustifiable); (2) it is not necessary to mark off a special class of
statements, the justifiers, which did the justifying and criticizing but
was not open to criticism; (3) there is not a point in all argument, the
terms, which is exempted from criticism; (4) the criticizers the
statements in terms of which criticism is conducted are themselves open
to review." This is coreys sig file. the only thing we can be certain
of is that we can be certain of nothing.

"The new framework permits a rationalist to be characterized as one who
is willing to entertain any position and holds all his positions,
including his most fundamental standards, goals, and decisions, and his
basic philosophical position itself, open to criticism; one who protects
nothing from criticism by justifying it irrationally; one who never cuts
off an argument by resorting to faith or irrational commitment to
justify some belief that has been under severe critical fire; one who is
committed, attached, addicted, to no position." [118]
(except pancritical rationalism?)

Hope this helps.
Tony Hindle.