What percentage of philosophers accept the Principle of Sufficient Reason?

I would offer two ways of approaching this question:

1. What percentage of philosophers - historically or contemporarily - explicitly and intentionally subscribe to, support or expand upon the PSR as a philosophical principle?

2. What percentage of philosophers - historically or contemporarily - unconsciously or implicitly demonstrate some acceptance or utilization of the PSR in their work?

These are very different questions, and the first is much easier to answer than the second. As to the first, the percentage is relatively small when including ALL philosophers in the West. The PSR wasn’t explicit until Leibniz, and since then has been the subject to a fair amount of debate - with just a handful of folks arguing for some version of the PSR. We might arrive at a formal percentage of around 15–20% of pro-PSR, post-Leibniz philosophers in this way - though of course debates over variations/extensions of the PSR have continued to this day.

The second question is much more difficult and conditional, relying on subjective assessments of an implicit reliance on - or demonstration of - the PSR, rather than explicit statements by the philosopher in question. It also will vary widely depending on which particular definition of the PSR is being employed (there are many - see Kant, Shopenhauer, Wolff, Hume, Leibniz, etc.). However, if we were to take every definition of the PSR into consideration, it becomes pretty clear that - at some point or other - nearly all philosophers in the West either employed a version of the PSR in their thinking, or it was otherwise implicit in their style of reasoning. Thus, using this approach to survey all philosophers in the West throughout recorded history, we arrive at close to 100%.

The real issue at hand, IMO, is what constitutes a priori (deductive) processes. That is really the ultimate “ground” from which the PSR arises, and why it is so difficult to escape. In psychological terms, we might say that PSR actually stands for the “principle of sufficient rationalization.” Human beings are quite clever at ordering their suppositions, evidence, language, semantics and logic around what they want to believe. And of course this includes the use of a posteriori (inductive) processes - resulting in various forms of bias. In other words, our tendency is to reinforce or affirm a priori beliefs with a posteriori experiential knowledge, despite all efforts at analytical rigor. Stepping back a bit, it is really rather humorous when philosophy attempts to escape the fetters of its own contingent parameters: to think itself out of a maze created by - and conditioned upon - human thought.

So I would say that, when attempting to answer such questions, it is important to examine one’s epistemology, hermeneutics and what I would call “semantic containers” (affinities/categorizations of thought and experience) before diving in. Because it is likely our methodology for defining, say, what a “brute fact” is, or what constitutes causality, that will likely be distorted by our a priori conditions - often to the point of glaring internal contradictions.

My 2 cents.


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