The Fragmentation of Reason

The Fragmentation of Reason

Preface to a Pragmatic Theory of Cognitive Evaluation

By Stephen Stich

A Bradford Book





From Descartes to Popper, philosophers have criticized and tried to improve the strategies of reasoning invoked in science and in everyday life. In recent years leading cognitive psychologists have painted a detailed, controversial, and highly critical portrait of common sense reasoning. Stephen Stich begins with a spirited defense of this work and a critique of those writers who argue that widespread irrationality is a biological or conceptual impossibility.Stich then explores the nature of rationality and irrationality: What is it that distinguishes good reasoning from bad? He rejects the most widely accepted approaches to this question approaches which unpack rationality by appeal to truth, to reflective equilibrium or conceptual analysis. The alternative he defends grows out of the pragmatic tradition in which reasoning is viewed as a cognitive tool. Stich's version of pragmatism leads to a radical epistemic relativism and he argues that the widespread abhorrence of relativism is ill founded.


Out of Print ISBN: 9780262192934 191 pp. | 6 in x 9 in


Out of Print ISBN: 9780262691598 191 pp. | 6 in x 9 in


  • All psychologists concerned with reasoning will find that Stich's reflections on it deepen their understanding of the topic.

    Richard E. Nisbett

    Contemporary Psychology

  • A wonderful book. It provides a total reworking of philosophical epistemology, a 'deconstruction,' as they say. Stich offers an exciting philosophical challenge to the whole field, and a persuasive case for a real pragmatism. The book is clear, straightforward and enjoyable to read, with an engaging human voice. It provides students with a model of how to do philosophy.

    Gilbert Harman

    Princeton University

  • In Stich's development of his new position, pragmatist epistemology has at last achieved a reasoned advocacy that combines lucidity with sophistication

    L. Jonathan Cohen

    Oxford University

  • It is a book which has many of the merits prized by philosophers of the analytic school: lucidity, terseness, wealth of argument, respect for the findings of empirical science, and - dare one say it - all the appearances of an honest commitment to the pursuit Of truth.

    E. J. Lowe

    Philosophical Quarterly