A study by Hugo Mercier and Dan Sperber proposes that reason evolved not to discover truth, but to persuade people of views one already holds. From their abstract:
Reasoning is generally seen as a means to improve knowledge and make better decisions. However, much evidence shows that reasoning often leads to epistemic distortions and poor decisions. This suggests that the function of reasoning should be rethought. Our hypothesisis that the function of reasoning is argumentative. It is to devise and evaluate argumentsintended to persuade.
In other words, reason does not exist to discover truth, but to persuade others that you are in possessionof it.I'm a bit dubious about that. I'd say that's one of its ancillary functions, but that reason is anabstract expression of that problem solving ability that any animal with a brain needs to survive. Wehave, relative to other animals, a giant brain, so we have better problem-solving abilities. We havesymbolic thought, which is an outgrowth of language, and when you combine symbolic thought with problem-solving, you get reason.However, in a political setting, Mercier and Sperber may often be right. Political actors work ina series of linked systems of symbol and value, those of family and home, community, ethnicity,commerce, religion, and warfare, for example.Many of those value systems are based on traditions, emotional attachments, and webs of obligation. Reason may modify these systems at the margins, but for the most part they form our identity and world view to an extent that is more powerful than reason. They form the assumptions onwhich we base reason. Edmund Burke even argued that our prejudices are an expression of the wisdomof our civilization. From
Reflections on the Revolution in France
We are afraid to put men to live and trade each on his own private stock of reason; because