For the medical term, see Rigor (medicine). For the sign of death, see Rigor mortis.
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Rigour (BrE) or rigor (AmE) (see spelling differences) has a number of meanings in relation to intellectual life and discourse. These are separate from public and political applications with their suggestion of laws enforced to the letter, or political absolutism.
1 Intellectual rigour
1.1 In relation to intellectual honesty,
1.2 Politics and the law,
2 Mathematical rigour
2.1 In relation to mathematical proof,
2.2 In relation to physics,
2.3 In relation to the classroom,
3 See also,
An attempted short definition of intellectual rigour might be that no suspicion of double standard be allowed: uniform principles should be applied. This is a test of consistency, over cases, and to individuals or institutions. Consistency can be at odds here with a forgiving attitude, adaptability, and the need to take precedent with a pinch of salt. If a topic or case is dealt with in a rigorous way, it means that it is dealt with in a comprehensive, thorough and complete way, leaving no room for inconsistencies.
"The rigour of the game" is a quotation from Charles Lamb about whist. It implies that the demands of thinking accurately and to the point over a card game can serve also as entertainment or leisure. Intellectual rigour can therefore be sometimes seen as the exercise of a skill. It can also degenerate into pedantry, which is intellectual rigour applied to no particular end, except perhaps self-importance.
Scholarship can be defined as intellectual rigour applied to the quality control of information, which implies an appropriate standard of accuracy, and scepticism applied to accepting anything on trust. It requires close attention to criteria for logical consistency, as well as to all relevant evidence and possible differences of interpretation.
In relation to intellectual honesty:
Intellectual rigour is an important part, though not the whole, of intellectual honesty -- which means keeping one's convictions in proportion to one's valid evidence. For the latter, one should be questioning one's own assumptions, not merely applying them relentlessly if precisely. It is possible to doubt whether complete intellectual honesty exists -- on the grounds that no one can entirely master his or her own presuppositions -- without doubting that certain kinds of intellectual rigour are potentially available. The distinction certainly matters greatly in debate, if one wishes to say that an argument is flawed in its premises.
Politics and the law:
Main article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Letter_and_spirit_of_the_law
The setting for intellectual rigour does tend to assume a principled position from which to advance or argue. An opportunistic tendency to use any argument at hand is not very rigorous, although very common in politics, for example. Arguing one way one day, and another later, can be defended by casuistry, i.e. by saying the cases are different.
In the legal context, for practical purposes, the facts of cases do always differ. Case law can therefore be at odds with a principled approach; and intellectual rigour can seem to be defeated. This defines a judge's problem with uncodified law. Codified law poses a different problem, of interpretation and adaptation of definite principles without losing the point; here applying the letter of the law, with all due rigour, may on occasion seem to undermine the principled approach.
Mathematical rigour can refer both to rigorous methods of mathematical proof and to rigorous methods of mathematical practice (thus relating to other interpretations of rigour).
In relation to mathematical proof:
Main article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mathematical_proof