When the man with the yellow hat takes George camping, George is very excited. There is so much to do at the campsite—pitching a tent, gathering water, meeting fellow campers—that George hardly knows where to begin (he only hopes the day will end with a roasted marshmallow!). When George’s knack for unintentional mischief gets him lost deep in the woods, George is scared . . . and being sprayed by a skunk only adds to the trouble. But George puts on a brave face, and he ends up saving the day when he puts out a small fire that could have endangered the forest.
In Common Grounds without Foundations, David Kratz Mathies offers an alternative, fallibilist model of moral reasoning rooted in the American Pragmatic tradition. Additional resources drawn from Chinese philosophy, Jain epistemology, modern philosophy of mathematics, and the Gadamerian hermeneutical tradition serve both to corroborate the argumentation and to provide examples of continuities in reasoning that cross the boundaries of disparate traditions. Ironically, the very success of arguments for the tradition-dependent nature of rationality belies their conclusions-even religious claims make their appeal with some level of public reason-and a nonfoundationalist theory of knowledge more accurately reflects both our scientific progress and our projects of everyday enquiry. Ultimately, an analysis of our best epistemic practices provides us with prima facie biases in favor of both diversity and free speech (without the need to appeal to any tradition-dependent axioms like inherent worth, human dignity, or the possession of a soul)-to be concretized in institutions like human rights and democracy.
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