[from the old blog, 4/19/2005, dipping into the philosophy posts]
By virtue of its own nature, reason must play a limited role in acts of deliberation; used puritanically without appeal, reason as a human quality ceases to be reasonable. I find it absurd to even think of reason existing in someone’s mind somehow quarantined from everything else, as if consciously we could micro-manage the happenings of our thoughts as one does numbers in arithmetic. After all, conscious decision-making is only one aspect of mental activity, underlying it like the bulk of an iceberg submerged beneath the visible tip is the subconscious; are we to suppose that the rigor of reason is managing this area as well? If dreams are to be any indication one would think not. It goes almost without saying that reason is one of many virtues at our disposal which when counterbalanced together help to situate an agreeable equilibrium. But simply because we employ the use of reason in deliberations we should not hastily conclude that we are rational beings, and in that assume a hierarchy of virtues: that is bad reasoning! We are just as much intuitive beings, creative beings, moral beings, and none of these are the exclusive domain of reasoning (what reasoning is involved in intuition, in morality, in our aesthetic inclinations?).
I worry a lot about the allure of rationalism, because I know in the past I was highly susceptible to it. I know how the arguments go, I know the rhetoric. But I have come to learn of its incapacity to stand up to rational scrutiny, and it’s therefore self-indicting nature. Sensible adherents of rationalism now accept the provisionary authority it has on issues, but I find this concession falls on deaf ears with those who take a vested interest in the power of authority once afforded reason, to those who want clear axiomatic truths and a firm grounding to advance their own agendas; in short, irrational people.
Virtually everything I have written in this blog is an indictment of the irrational misuse of reason. Yet there is a subtle though deeply significant nuance to this indictment that still has some people questioning my sanity, and while I appreciate the concern, I assure you I am okay. This nuance is that while I am against the irrational misuse of reason (i.e. induction, scientific realism, waifism, and absolutism) I entirely endorse the faith-based misuse of reason. And what is the subtle difference between an irrational act and a faith-based act? In a word: intent. Bear with me, I am not trying to be clever, there is a huge difference between these two seemingly synonymous terms. An irrational act (as the word implies) is one whose value is determined by how rational it is, and in this case, by its noteworthy lack of this quality. Thus, scientific realism is an irrational claim because it genuinely intends to be reasonable but lacks sufficient evidence to qualify. A faith-based act does not depend on an outside source to derive its value, it is a self-authenticating act. Thus doublethink is a faith-based claim which does not need to be reasonable in order to be authenticated, but may desire to be reasonable purely for aesthetic purposes. Thus, an irrational act is failing to achieve what it intends to do, and should be discriminated against for this failing, whereas a faith-based act, insofar as it is faithful, assumes neither the intention nor responsibility to be reasonable with reason and should not be discriminated against for its misuse.
Perhaps you disagree and think that there should be a sort of fair-play between faith/reason, and that faith should not be able to misuse reason if reason cannot misuse faith. Foregoing the obvious criticism (what validates fair-play as a universal standard?) the justification for this disadvantage to reason is it is rule-based and right/wrong are determined by these rules, whereas faith is self-authenticating, and at least initially has the sovereign right to transgress all external claims of authority.
Insofar as we need to speak of thought processes abstractly (i.e. rationally) this will suffice:
1) reason-based convictions must be reasonable
2) faith-based convictions need not be reasonable
In actuality, what occurs? As the existentialists say, existence precedes essence, the individual determines value, incorporating his/her own repertoire of memories, feelings, thought fragments, which resonate in a higher level as consciousness, and on a lower level exist in a physical form as neurons firing throughout the brain. The neural activity alone will not sufficiently explain the higher level values assessed through consciousness. I defy you to conceive of an argument that is not dependent on belief, no matter how obvious it seems. A hierarchy of values is at first a belief. The superiority of reason is at first a belief. The very concept of ‘inductive reasoning’ is at first a belief; now imagine all of the subsequent beliefs that are based upon the infallibility of this first one and you begin to see the fissures of all beliefs. To the extent one is conscious of the decision-making process, we never fully realize the lineage of each thought as it happens though we may suppose such inventory in the subconscious (once again a belief). How then are we to know the infallibility of any of the rules which were accumulated through lived history? How then can we genuinely expect to know of a priori truths? By believing them, but not solely through a governing rationale, rather through sheer will, a will governed by any number of forces which supercede our conscious capacity to know.
In actuality, absolute truth can only be known via faith, and only personally. Beyond this I can only make the superficial observation that thought processes seem to consist of a vying of beliefs without fixed qualities which are continually customized to the impending variables both external and internal at any given moment. Symptomatic of such a reading is doublethink which is the Orwellian term I give to the mental event wherein two contradictory beliefs are held nearly simultaneously without conscious disturbance to either belief. The capacity for such an event supports the view of the primacy of belief which is able to accommodate paradoxes without any serious difficulty. As a technique doublethink can be consciously employed in order to concentrate will towards achieving a desired goal.