In discussions of philosophy participants rely on a reasoning system. Some are put together haphazardly, others seem distilled from a commitment to beliefs or a particular philosophy, while still others appear carefully constructed. In this thread I want to suggest that a reasoning system derived from a variation on the philosophy known as pragmatism may be most suited for philosophical debates at PF. But first, let me briefly explain what I mean by “reasoning system,” and limit the definition to philosophical discussions. Within the context of philosophy, reason is the avenue for the exchange of ideas about the nature of reality, and how one thinks properly about it. A reasoning “system” then, is a collection of components in service to the overall reasoning function. Strictly for the sake of quickly moving ahead to the point of this discussion, I’ve selected a list (incomplete, I’m sure) of reasoning components as key quantitative and qualitative contributors to the ideal of reason. I’ve also situated them in three levels I’ll call foundational, advanced, and vanguard. The chosen foundational components are: information, logic, and integrity. About information one might say it needs to be accurate, while logic should obey the formal rules (i.e., not one’s own version of logic), and integrity means being fully committed to using accurate information and correct logic. For the advanced components we might settle on: comprehensiveness and depth. Comprehensiveness refers to finding and using all relevant information, not just that which supports one’s argument; and depth means of understanding, and so it’s a commitment to think things out thoroughly rather than superficially. Finally, like the tip of a strong pyramid rests on a solid foundation and quality materials, so too does the vanguard of philosophical reasoning: inference. Inference is truly the most advanced skill of philosophical reason, and totally dependent on doing all the other components well. Okay, let’s get to pragmatism and what sort of reasoning system might be derived from it. Those who’ve read any of what I’ve written here or at the previous PF know I have been influenced by quite a variety of people. But when it comes to philosophical debate, no idea has influenced me more than pragmatism. Pragmatism is a uniquely American development that began in the late 19th century with the insights of C.S. Peirce and later William James, John Dewey, A.J. Ayer (who I’ve quoted often), and many others, and it is still vital today. I am going to express a pragmatism principle first by how I’ve come to see it, and I’ll admit it’s a bit simplistic. Principle: if something “works,” then at least some part of it is based on the true nature of reality. For example, if you lift rock and drop it in a deep lake, it will fall and make a “kerplunk” noise. If you do that because you know it will make that noise and so signal your friend on the bank, then you’ve correctly assessed the way reality works. If you drop your rock in a shallow area of the lake hoping for that sound, the lack of the “kerplunk” tells you that you have not assessed reality correctly. Peirce, in my opinion, was the man in terms of developing a practical, objective approach with pragmatism. James, who is also known for his contributions to pragmatism, gives it a psychological twist that can become idiosyncratic. James might say, “if it works for you there’s some truth to it, which Peirce didn’t like at all (nor do I except in a limited way). Taken to the extreme, one could say, “it worked for Stalin to kill everyone he perceived as a threat to him.” To evaluate this one has to consider every effect of Stalin’s approach (comprehensiveness). What effect did it have overall and long-term, did it really work for everyone? Did it enrich the economy, did it spawn creativity, did it strengthen the society, did it even make Stalin happy? Anyway, in terms of philosophical debate at PF, people make various philosophical proposals. My standard for evaluating a proposal is to look for evidence that any element of the proposal has been proven effective (again, comprehensively). Heusden preaches dialectical materialism, so I look for instances of it working. LG proposes an all-mind theory, and I look for examples of that working somewhere. Some people say chemistry can spontaneously start life, so I look for chemistry working that way. Now here is where we reach the “vanguard” of reason. If you can’t show something works so well, then how far can you leap with inferences using it? Obviously different categories of things have different standards for what “works.” A theory, for example, doesn’t have to work by achieving what it theorizes, but it should work in the sense of accounting for lots of observed phenomena and not being unequivocally contradicted by anything. With the pragmatism principle I’ve outlined, one can only leap inferentially as far as one’s concept is supported by evidence that it works. Works little, leap little; works lots, leap lots. At a science-oriented site, to me this seems like a good standard for philosophizing. What do you think?