The Nature of Consciousness

Piero Scaruffi

(Copyright © 2013 Piero Scaruffi | Legal restrictions )
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These are excerpts and elaborations from my book "The Nature of Consciousness"

Plausible Reasoning

In our daily lives, we are rarely faced with the task of finding the perfect solution to a problem. If we are running out of gasoline in the middle of the night, we are happy with finding a gas station along our route, even if its gasoline may not be the best or the cheapest. We almost never pause to figure out the best option among the ones that are available. We pick one that leads to a desired outcome. What our mind is looking for all the time is “plausible” solutions to problems, as opposed to “exact” ones. Mathematics demands exact solutions, but in our daily lives we content ourselves with plausible ones. The reason is that sometimes a plausible solution enables us to survive, whereas looking for an exact one would jeopardize our lives. A gazelle who paused to work out the best escape route while a lion is closing in on her wouldn’t stand a chance. Often, finding the perfect solution is simply  pointless, because by the time we find it the problem would have escalated, i.e. we would be dead.

This became a popular subject of research after the publication of "Plausible Reasoning" (1976) by the German-born philosopher Nicholas Rescher at the University of Pittsburgh and of "Logic and Conversation" (1975) by the British-born philosopher Paul Grice at UC Berkeley.

Classical Logic is very powerful, but lacks this basic attribute: quick, efficient response to problems when an exact solution is not necessary (and sometimes counterproductive).

Several techniques have been proposed for augmenting Logic with “plausible” reasoning: degrees of belief, default rules, inference in the face of absence of information, inference about vague quantities, analogical reasoning, etc.


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