Title

Optimizing Reasonableness, Critical Thinking, and Cyberspace

Publication Title

Educational Philosophy and Theory

Publication Date

10-2003

Document Type

Article

DOI

10.1111/1469-5812.00038

Keywords

reasonableness, critical thinking, cyberspace

Disciplines

Philosophy

Abstract

In this paper, I argue that the quantity, superabundance of information, easy availability, and quick access to information in cyberspace may engender critical thinking and the optimization of reasonableness. This point is different from, but presupposes, the commonplace view that critical thinking abilities, criteria, processes, and dispositions are necessary to make sense of information in cyberspace. My point is that cyberspace, as a context and process, has a heuristic epistemic value, which renders it important for education, critical thinking, and pedagogy. This value has to do with the idea that cyberspace, given its features, may put pressure on people to be moderately skeptical, critical, and tentative about information. This value, which is relatively lacking in other media, will engender the attitude and disposition to critically examine and rigorously reflect on beliefs before accepting them as reasonable. The features and context of information in cyberspace are thus unique compared to other media. There are administrative, legal, economic, and moral limitations on the nature of information presented in other media which are relatively lacking in cyberspace. These limitations in other media vitiate the heuristic epistemic value of engendering critical thinking. People seem to think that information from other ‘controlled’ sources or media are true and more credible because there is some expectation by people that editors and reporters will vet information for credibility before they put it out. That expectation leads to a situation where people do not bother to critically examine information; they become epistemically lazy and complacent; they just accept the information without critical examination instead of being skeptical and critical. I motivate my argument by using J. S. Mill’s (1987) argument for freedom of expression, which is founded on epistemic fallibilism, our rational ability to be aware of our fallibility, and the effort to engage in critical inquiry to attenuate fallibility and optimize reasonableness.