Modern society seems in awe of the advances of science and technology. We commonly praise innovations that enable us to live longer and more comfortable lives, we look forward to the release of new gadgets, we seek out new ways to employ technology in our everyday lives. These developments depend upon a set of intellectual practices that are commonly associated with the methods of the natural sciences. We are able to invent and create precisely because we are able to gather evidence and reason competently.
But this fascination with technology and science is accompanied by various forms of skepticism about reason itself. Some hold that reason is a kind of Promethean hubris. Others claim that what passes for reason is really just rationalization or power. Still others contend that reason is at best of limited value, and that other, non-rational, sources of cognitive guidance are more authoritative than reason.
Michael Lynch’s new book, In Praise of Reason (The MIT Press, 2012), launches a compelling and deeply engaging defense of the idea that our cognitive lives are properly managed when they are aimed at believing in accordance with reason. In making his case for reason, Lynch emphasizes the importance of reason for the maintenance of a democratic society. In Praise of Reason resides at the intersection of political philosophy and epistemology, and for this reason will be of interest to a wide range of philosophers and non-philosophers alike.