March 20, 2009
First let me be clear: I consider myself a rational person, and the point of this post is not to denigrate rationalism or rationalists. The value of rationalism as a truth-filter and its tremendous impact on modern society cannot be overstated. When appropriately applied, the philosophy of rationalism leads to or complies with all sorts of tried-and-true concepts: The presumption of innocence sans proof of guilt, the scientific method, the burden of proof, etc. All of these things are sound derivatives of an evidence-based epistemology and by no means do I intend to challenge them.
Yet, any idea can descend into dogma, and no philosophy is good when our application of it encourages rigidity. Consequently, I've noticed I don't always agree with the scope and popular interpretations of rationalism that have ascended to the apex of today's epistemological food chain. In my opinion, they lend themselves all too well to dogmatic thinking and provide the perfect cover for those who unconsciously make the converse mistake of the gullible.
Going further, I often wonder if contemporary interpretations of rationalism entail an irrecoverable contradiction, and therein lies the topic of the post: Contemporary rationalism tells us to assume all claims without evidence are false, yet there's no evidence to support the claim that all claims without evidence are false, so on what evidence might we rest?
**Note: This is not an argument, conclusion or suggestion that all claims are equally credible, either, so don't start flanking me from that direction.