An Entry in the “Where Has This Book Been All My Life?” Category

I have found a(nother) book that sends me into fist-raising paroxysms of joy. So simple, so clear, so complete is W.V. Quine and J.S. Ullian’s The Web of Belief. Here is a book designed as an entry-level overview of rational thinking. For those of this site who don’t believe in rationality, turn away from quotes like this:

Now many bogus doctrines are actually unintelligible; their seeming content simply vanishes when closely scrutinized. But given the incomprehensibility of so much genuine science for so many of us, that very unintelligibility can be mistaken as a sign of authenticity. Alas, it can even inspire reverence.

The book speaks with admirable clarity about the importance of straight thinking and the tools that can be used to assist in the matter. Another assiduous quote:

For many doctrines, though, there is this protective argument: you (pointing for the follower of the scientific establishment) can’t disprove it! And to be sure, many of these theories that lie on or beyond the fringe of believability cannot be definitively shown to be wrong. Indeed many of them are cast in terms that are so cloudy that it is hard to know what would count as a refutation of them; for they are not intelligible in the first place. And here the naivete of the believer may blend with his instinct for giant-killing. He thinks that the fact that his belief can’t be knocked all the way over is additional ground for embrasing it; and he may rejoice in finding all the mighty scientists can’t put him down. A victory, of sorts, over those in power.

I have reveled in this book. In many ways, it pertains to some of the debates that are occurring on this site and will continue to persist.

Oh yeah….buy it used….

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