Chains of Reason

Chains of Reason is currently just an idea

That idea is an online platform for a new form of public discourse – one that's collaborative rather than adversarial.

Just as Wikipedia is a collaborative platform for the presentation of knowledge, Chains of Reason would be a collaborative platform for the presentation of arguments – scientific, moral, political, etc. Although, whereas Wikipedia only presents established knowledge, it would be possible to present both established and original arguments on Chains of Reason.

Also like Wikipedia, the site would use wiki software, be owned and run by a nonprofit organisation, and be ad-free.

The presentation format

Arguments would be presented as a series of small logical steps. Each step would consist of two premises followed by a conclusion, with the conclusion of each step prior to the last being the first premise of the next step. This chain of reasoning would be displayed as in the following example:

    1. Brain activity is the interaction and motion of matter in the brain.

    1. The interaction and motion of matter is dictated solely by the laws of physics.

⬇️

    1. Brain activity is dictated solely by the laws of physics.

    1. Some brain activity is associated with the decision-making process.

⬇️

    1. The decision-making process is dictated solely by the laws of physics.

    1. If the decision-making process is dictated solely by the laws of physics then we don't have free will.

⬇️

    1. We don't have free will.


It would be possible to add objections to each step in a chain, with each objection itself being presented in the chain format.

Also, if the premise of one step is the main conclusion, or sub-conclusion, of another chain, then it will be possible to indicate this connection.

A new form of public discourse

Discourse between people about their contrary beliefs is, however polite, normally adversarial, as each person tries to demonstrate that their belief is correct and their 'opponent's' belief is wrong. But Chains of Reason would be a platform for collaborative discourse between people about their contrary beliefs.

That is, just as contributors to Wikipedia with contrary beliefs collaborate on articles related to those beliefs, contributors to Chains of Reason with contrary beliefs would collaborate on arguments for and against those beliefs.

The only debate on the platform would be about how best to present each argument. Although, as explained in the previous section, it would be possible to add objections to steps in arguments.

Who's behind this idea?

The basic idea of Chains of Reason was devised by me, Derrick Farnell. I live in Edinburgh, Scotland, and work as a freelance copywriter.

Photo of Derrick Farnell.

Although I'm passionate about this idea, I currently can't afford to spend any time developing it, given my work and other commitments. Also, the site would need to be run on bespoke software, and I've no knowledge of coding and software development, and can't afford the development and hosting costs.

So what's the plan?

I'd be able to manage the development and running of Chains of Reason if this was a paid position, heading a dedicated nonprofit organisation funded by donations.

I'm therefore hoping that this proposal will generate sufficient interest, and donations, to set-up such an organisation and enable me to begin work. I'll only set-up a facility for making donations if there seems to be enough initial interest.

Want to get involved?

Join the discussion at the Chains of Reason subreddit.

To receive email updates about Chains of Reason submit your address via Substack – you don't need a Substack account.

There's also a Twitter account.

You can email me at derrick@chainsofreason.org although, given my limited time, please only do so if you've a specific reason to prefer to contact me directly rather than posting on the subreddit. I receive notifications of new posts on the subreddit.