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Posts Tagged ‘Mercier and Sperber’

Apollo and the Muses by Hans Holbein the Younger, 1533

The world of those who study argument and who study reason and rationality is abuzz with talk of the provocative research of Hugo Mercier and Dan Sperber. Anyone who was at last week’s OSSA conference heard their names in practically every other conversation or presentation. For my own part I’m not sure quite what to make of their work.  On the one hand it’s exciting to see argument and reason brought together in empirical research, and I’m well on record as being very friendly to the notion that argument has a very deeply rooted functionality for human beings at both the collective and individual levels. On the other hand, I’m not sure that there aren’t grave problems lurking within. For one, Mercier and Sperber seem at times to work from the assumption that ‘argument’ means ‘deductive argument’ and if this is so, I’m not at all sure that it is wise.  The body of work on analogy alone would give me pause regarding the prospects of such a view, to say nothing of the work of the informal logic movement in the last 30 years.  There are other things that trouble me, but as I’m still doing research in this general idea I’ll try to save myself what might turn out to be a super-sized helping of crow and leave the reader to their own devices where Messrs. Mercier and Sperber are concerned.

At any rate there’s no denying it’s relevance to the world of argumentation theory.  In that vein this video interview with Hugo Mercier is one that I expect will be of interest to many.  The interview is located at the web journal* Edge, itself worth a look to those with an interest in interdisciplinary intellectual discourse.

*(All apologies to those of you who thought that by ‘Edge’ I was referring to an Irish fellow–though I confess I probably would have watched that interview with interest too.)

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