There are those who say we ought to rely upon reason alone, but this is irrational in the face of reality.
Those who say they believe we ought to rely solely upon reason are defeated before they begin, for they believe in reason. One cannot deduce either the origin or the reliability of reason; it must be taken by faith. So this sort of statement is an admission that faith must exist alongside reason. And why shouldn’t it? We act more on probabilities than certainties. We must put our faith in something, even if it is reason; but we must not pretend faith is invalid in the face of reason, since it is really reason that it propped up on faith; and the object of our faith must be reasonable [i.e. — We should not place our faith in hungry monkeys to safeguard our bananas, for hungry monkeys have a proven tendency to eat bananas.]: We need a reasonable faith.
A belief in reliance upon reason alone is not reasonable because it fails to acknowledge and account for a certain quanta of required faith. Even if someone does not state explicitly that they “believe” in reason alone, the element of faith remains.
Then what of imagination? We must be able to visualize and conceptualize something before we can reason it out. Those who would posit that imagination is just a part of the process of reason or deduction have forgotten, for the moment, that through imagination the mind is capable of conceiving things that are quite irrational! Fictions, farces, unreasonable biases, delusions of grandeur, conspiracy theories, phobias, fairy tales, ghost stories, and works of art, dementia and amusements are all the products of imagination. We can delude ourselves. We can lie to others. A man who presumes imagination is bound to reason has never written a story, imagined a better life or been frightened by the impossibilities posited in a campfire tale. I daresay, he’s never dreamt. A poet would declare he’d never lived! How could a man of reason not take into account these things? Creatives know that the idle doodle and the work of art are equal products of imagination, as are one’s tuneless humming and a symphony. When we couple imagination with reason [and the faith it implies], it leads it innovation and sometimes even to new paradigms of knowledge [such as when we dropped a geocentric portrait of cosmology for a heliocentric model].
Then what of passion? Why do we feel emotions like pride, doubt, despair, giddiness, sobriety, earnestness, zeal, love, joy, hope or frustration? As any Star Trek fan knows, humanity is well-known for its irrational feelings. Of course, by denying his half-humanity, Spock is somewhat of a hypocrite.* In any case, it is often emotion and not reason that holds the most weight in our decision-making. The passions are where we get such outlandish notions as chivalry, a concept neither robots nor Vulcans can compute. For example, in the movie I, Robot, Will Smith’s character laments that a robot, with its logic-driven difference engine [brain], saved him from death because he had the greatest chance of survival, but a human would have known instead to save a little girl, likewise in peril. Emotion trumps reason when we toss ourselves in front of a bus to save a child we do not know. Passion is not here following some blind evolutionary instincts to preserve the species. If it were, we would let the child and its foolishly-playing-in-the-street gene die. In the name of survival of the fittest, my genes, and not a stranger’s, count. Passion is not divorceable from our thought processes. While it taints our thoughts and colors our worldview, we ought not to consider it purely a pollutant. Perhaps it’s more of an enhancement [ah, love], a catalyst [zeal, outrage] or a caution [fear, doubt]. Perhaps it’s not unreasonable at all to sacrifice oneself for a stranger. Perhaps if we take into account that it is from passion that our sense of self-worth is most derived, sacrifice is the most reasonable expression of the nobility inherent in our humanity.
Talk of passion inevitably leads to a discussion of morality. C.S. Lewis pointed out that we all have a moral law written on our hearts. Some particulars may differ, but we all agree overall that some things are definitely wrong and some things are right. We may not agree on how many wives a man is allowed, but we all agree that no man has a right to his own wife but himself! Justice and vengeance are inherent considerations of morality. For example, excepting bigoted men, no one believes Adolf Hitler deserves Heaven. Bigotry is a warped morality based on intense feelings of fear, mistrust and hate, bolstered by rationalizations which have in turn been warped by wicked imaginations. Some feel morality ought to be derived from or has been derived from reason. To an extent, they are right. Morality is quite reasonable. It is also quite distinct from reason; that is, it exists apart from reason, but is based in large part upon reason.
Time does not permit me to go on. I resign myself to a mention of intuition, memory and wisdom as facets of thought. I only mention these other facets because they exist alongside reason, and I believe there is a perfectly good reason that they do! I believe they exist as a system of checks and balances, designed by God, to help man come to the right decisions. After all, how many times have you went on a hunch [intuition!] based on nothing you could put your finger on when reason told you to do something else and were rewarded for it? I’ve ceased counting!
You see, the irrational position of “reason only” is that life is not reasonable. Not really. We try to make sense of the world, but a large part of it remains unexplained and inexplicable. Mystery is a part of life and mystery will not bow down her rights to Reason’s shrill demands. Reason sees things in black and white. The world is a kaleidescope of colors. Reason is supposed to provide it hue, not paint it all black or convert it to monochrome.
Think about it.
* In Star Trek: The original Series episode 1.12a “This Side of Paradise,” [Star Date: 3417.3] the Enterprise discovers the colonists unaffected after three years’ exposure to deadly Berthold rays. Spock (Leonard Nimoy) is reunited with an old friend, Leila Katomi (Jill Ireland), who exposes him to strange spores causing him to release his emotions and he promptly declares his love for her. When the spores wear off, he denies his feelings. A poem by Shirley Meech, with this episode as her subject matter, ends: “… You said that you loved me, and you cried. / I said I had no feelings, and I lied.”
This post originally appeared on this blogsite January 2008.