Continuing the Revolution Part Two- A Return to Reason

Aug 4, 2011 by

The Enlightenment and the Age of Reason sparked a revolution in thought that would change the world forever. It made sense that reason, the best tool we are gifted, should be the instrument used to guide civil society. The ability to reason is not the end but the beginning. We have a long history of struggle to perfect its application. Like any tool its use must be understood and then put into practice. What is most important to understand is that reason is fallible which leads to unreasonableness. The culprits overruling reason are instinct and passion. They are very strong drives that are not bad by nature but can only be used correctly if governed and controlled by reason. If these drives are directed to motivate us to do “the good” (enlightened self-interest) they become another useful tool the moment we realize our interest is connected to the interest of the community. If left unchecked it leads to action of the most selfish nature and creates factions of like minded people willing to commit negative actions against others for example, tyrannical rule, slavery, and even mass murder.

Continuing the Revolution is a process of avoiding unreasonable action, vigilance, and cultivating reasonable action, virtue. As Aristotle wrote “all human action must be aimed at some good” and “the highest good is that of the community”. This is what we know to be true. Practice is the best way reason can be cultivated, motivated by a passion to know. The uninhibited freedom of choice guided by reason will help us become better individuals and ultimately a better community.  Do not fear, but celebrate different thinking, and always be willing to accept the most reasonable thought especially if it is not your own. Accepting another’s thought as the best reasoning does not make you wrong, it is a testimony that you are willing to continue the revolution, a very WE THE PEOPLE idea!

Vince Giglio

 

24 Comments

  1. Lot

    I very much enjoyed this post but I must disagree with the statement that reason is fallible. Although in the following statement it is implied that the process of reasoning is contorted by things such as reckless passion or animalistic desires, it would be much clearer to directly state that it is the process by which humans achieve reason that is fallible, and not reason itself. As you said we’ve a ways to go to perfect its application, and therefore reason in its purest form is something which exists as the ultimate form of that which is achieved through our human intellectual capacity. Reason does not ever fail, we simply fail to achieve its proper usage.

  2. Gerber

    I agree with the previous comment. It is not that Reason is fallible. Passion and Instinct can raid Reason. Thus, what you see with Unreasonableness is not bad Reason, it is a raid on Reason by Passion and Instinct. But, Passion and Instinct share an a-symmetrical relationship with Reason. While Passion and Instinct can only raid Reason, Reason can colonize and take Prisoners of Passion and Instinct. Thus, as was stated in the article, Passion and Instinct are not intrinsically bad. If they are colonized by Reason, Passion and Instinct can be a positive drive for the Good.

  3. Lot

    Yes, essentially one who is firm in fulfilling their purpose can overcome the imbalance often brought about by the rampant characteristics of unchecked passion and instinct. There is a distinction to be made here and that is the passion brought about by things such as a desire to satisfy ones carnal desires for example. Passion derived from wanting to pursue things such as justice on the other hand, although noble, can lead to violent acts such as vigilantism as an example, when they are left unchecked as you both said. The point I’m trying to relate is that not all passions can be used in conjunction with reason. To add to your metaphor I shall add this. Maintain Passion and Instinct as prisoners of your conquest, as they can inform you about many things, but if they have nothing of importance to relate to you, execute them and don’t run the risk that they escape the prison and kill the innocent in your village.

  4. Vince Giglio

    We can never achieve its proper usage. Reason is fallible when incomplete (not doing enough research) or inaccurate (not checking your sources for accuracy) information makes it so. I would contend that the human aspect of the process is the problem and can’t be taken out. There can’t be perfect reasoning. The process in itself proves that. God does not reason because there is no process to go through to make an error. I think that there is a higher form that does not involve choice or process. Call it what you will, Divine Understanding or something else. God can not either choose evil or by faulty process end in evil,we can, that is why the difference between God and us is law. We need it because we can be unreasonable, God can’t be unreasonable.

  5. Vince Giglio

    How do you get from justice to vigilantism? If you see an injustice you can educate, use the law, make a law (not a big fan of this approach), or in the extreme case when no remedy is afforded and the cause protects the people’s rights, I say revolution anyone. Vigilantism smacks of bypassing civilized remedies and turns an honest disagreement into a civil war. That does not sound very reasonable to me. Control those passions.

  6. Heather Malone

    Vince, if you believe in the Christian Bible’s Old Testament or the Jewish Torah, they seem to suggest otherwise about God’s supposed inability to be unreasonable.

  7. Gerber

    There is nothing in the Bible or Torah that shows God to be unreasonable. The reason is to know that God is unreasonable, one must know everything. God knows everything when he makes his decisions. We, even in looking back, do not know everything about a situation. Thus, it is impossible to say that God is unreasonable when he does something. If you are pointing towards his moments of wrath, notice he was steering events in a certain direction. Other then that, I do not know what you are pointing to.

  8. Gerber

    There is no passion which cannot be colonized. Colonization is a means of extremes. Naturally, our passions want an extreme. When it comes to bravery, either they want to be extremely reckless or they want to be extremely cowardice. The trick is to find that niche in the center. Executions only take place when one fails to colonize through lack of ability. To deny one’s passions results in build ups of passionate armies. Left unchecked, this will result in destruction of one’s Reason.

  9. Vince Giglio

    For example?

  10. Vince Giglio

    Can you give examples?

  11. Lot

    Well when I said execute the prisoners I just meant that if you are unable to handle having passions then just cease that desire to do so in order to deal with what’s in your ability to deal with on that instant, especially if the lives of others are at stake. Some people can confront their internal issues as they deal with the presented problem but life often doesn’t wait for what we consider ideal timing. We need to as you said find that central niche in order to hold up our responsibilities.

  12. Lot

    I think she only meant that it says God can do anything, even something that through our (limited and human) understanding shouldn’t be possible for a god. But I don’t read the Bible often so I cannot confirm if it says or implies it either. Just because God doesn’t blow us up doesn’t mean he can’t. In the Catholic Bible it says that Jesus who is supposed to be God himself is not aware of the time at which the world will end. He lacked that knowledge and yet as a human, he was able to execute perfect reason through his actions and abandon self interest. It would seem that if he lacked knowledge then he isn’t God but if God can do anything then he can even perform paradoxes. It seems like people would believe this to avoid putting limits on God but I myself am only entertaining this thought, im unsure about it….

  13. Gerber

    But that is just a simple raid on passions, it isn’t killing passions. It is merely, for an instance, suspending passions in order to get to achieve something. To say to kill is permanently reduce them. The objective is not to reduce, but control. Also, is it possible to “cease the desire to” have passions? If your passions are in control, then there is no way for Reason to cease your desire to do anything. If you are able to cease your desire, on the other hand, Reason is in control. The objective is to turn passion into Reason, not to ignore Passion’s existence. To do so would utterly destroy a person. Either the person would lose all drive, as Passion is our greatest, if not our only, drive, or the person would lose control of the built up passions and Reason would lose control. It is not about executing or ignoring passions, but dealing with them and having the strength to both acknowledge their presence and do what Reason dictates all the same.

  14. Gerber

    God cannot do anything contrary to himself. If the idea of God is true, He is too overwhelming to understand in His entirety. But God cannot perform paradoxes. A Paradox is an object acting contrary to itself. It is like stating “This sentence is false.” In order for the statement to be true, it would mean the statement is false. In order for the statement to be false, it would have to be true. It is an impossibility, not because it cannot be either false or true, but a statement cannot be both at the same time. God can do anything he wants (including blow us up), but for him to do so contrary to Reason is impossible. For, the second he does it, he ceases to be God. For God is perfect Reason. He cannot do both at the same time, be God and unreasonable. Thus, he never will be unreasonable.

  15. Lot

    You can cease it if you see something better than what you currently want in that instant. I used the analogy of “executing passions” because in the instant that a new variable is set into play, our passion that we had in one instance dies and the new information we are receiving about the new situation gives way to a new passion, a sort of death and rebirth cycle is initiated as we acquire new information regarding possibilities we can take advantage of. Change in events lead to an updated internal catalog of information we can access and the way we see things changes. At times, this can flourish into an opportunity for us to “kill our passions” and pursue something reasonable in its place. Just because we are a creature inclined to desire and survival doesn’t mean we don’t see what is reasonable as desirable. Reason can be a Passion because it too is a tool which can be used for survival after all! As for the matter pertaining to God, from a Catholic point of view it can be said that God can perform these seemingly impossible feats such as being three persons at the same time, being on Earth and Heaven at the same time. We must ask ourselves though, what does it mean to be unreasonable? Reasonable actions are those aimed at a good but the unreasonable things we do….. we do them because we simply don’t have full knowledge of the outcomes and the extent of the results, we only see the “good” of committing those acts at the present moment. It really comes down to what your definition of God is though, you can see God as anthropomorphic or as simply an essence. Maybe you can even view God as something which simply creates, exists outside of time, and sustains the framework which gives shape to the universe. But whatever God truly is, slapping a label of what he is and what he can do is an automatic limitation.

  16. Gerber

    It is not that we are killing passions, for recklessness and cowardice are both the passion of bravery. the name difference only describes the degree to which it is used, not a difference in the passion itself. And if Reason and Passion are tools, where is the one who uses them? There must be something which guides our use in them. To say we are to choose one tool over another is to say there is something to choose with. As pertaining to God, I admit to not knowing whether God is reasonable or unreasonable with exact certainty when there is no source to go on. I cannot admit to even knowing whether or not God IS with that certainty. As far as the Christian God is concerned, it seems only true that he is Reasonable. He created us in his image. We are the only creatures he did so with. He is everywhere at once, as you have stated. Thus, we are not LITERALLY in his image. Thus, we must ask ourselves what separates us from everything else. The only conclusion that can be reached is Reason. Animals have passion, instinct, motion, and the like. We are the only ones capable of Reason in its entirety. Thus, since that is our only REAL difference (any other differences stem from Reason it seems), it is only logical to make that his image as well, else we are not in his image or more then just us is made in his image. Now, God is also supposed to be perfect in everything he does. God is supposed to have perfect standards, perfect knowledge (whether or not he chooses to use it), and perfect powers. Thus, he must posses perfect Reason, or else he would not posses it. Now, as for unreasonable actions being aimed at the good of the moment, that is false. Unreasonable actions are actions that contradict Reason, not actions that do not posses enough information. An unreasonable action is such that had Reason been the choice, the act would not have been committed. An action that does not posses enough knowledge would be more akin to an uninformed action, not an unreasonable one. Saying someone is innocent of rape is not unreasonable when you are not shown enough to prove he is guilty. It is only unreasonable when the facts show you he is guilty and you still say innocent.

  17. Lot

    You have an interesting point about the Reason and Passion requiring something to choose from one or the other. I am unsure regarding this but I would imagine that preference may have a role. Concerning what the motivation for establishing a preference in either tool is concerned, it may just have to do with environment, culture, and upbringing. Essentially, a person might choose simply because they feel more comfortable with one than the other, but I am aware of the exceptions and this doesn’t satisfy the question. I’m also curious of what you mean by being” capable of Reason in its entirety,” although I completely agree that being capable of reason is the primary distinction and quite possibly the only one which separates us from animals. But wouldn’t making the conclusion that someone is innocent due to lack of evidence unreasonable itself? Saying they are guilty or innocent with no bases seems like a bad idea in general.

  18. Lot

    I apologize I meant to say “As far as to what the motivation for establishing a preference in either tool is concerned….”

  19. Gerber

    As far as innocent versus guilty is concerned, a person is innocent until proven guilty. As a juror, to say someone is innocent due to lack of evidence is reasonable because there as far as everything you know, there is no reason to believe that they committed the crime. By Reason in it’s entirety, I mean that some people point to socialization and certain actions of animals as hints of Reason, yet there is no animal which questions its metaphysical existence or the political theories of its time. I am making it so that Reason is not simply the borderline cases, but the broader picture. As far as preference goes, what you are stating is that we are completely a product of our environment. I believe, rather then experiences change who we are, we change based on what we take from experiences. Rather then it being random, experiences only dictate what we allow them to. Thus, there must be a guiding force. I believe this to be Reason. Reason is in the conscious part of our brain, what other force is there that we actively use?

  20. Lot

    I can see how in court cases it would seem illogical to imprison a man just because one does not know if he is innocent or not because no one wants to imprison an innocent man after all, but is a person actually innocent just because there is no evidence to support the contrary? Is it reasonable to believe when no evidence for either case is present? Animals do not reason. The ability to solve problems cognitively does not prove the presence of reason, so it is as you’ve said. I am not suggesting we are mere products of our environments, but rather products of what we have chosen to willingly accept to take from our experiences. The fact of the matter is that because it is we who have the final say in what we choose to believe, it is ourselves who finalize what our preferences will turn out to be. What I said was “it may just have to do with environment, culture, and upbringing.” I never said “what we prefer is shaped by our environment, culture, and upbringing.” Our environment and those other things do have to do with what our preferences turn out to be because they are the things which provide us with the situations in which we will make those choices of whether we allow them to influence us in actively use reason mean we are consciously aware of it? When you’re taking notes with a pencil, are you constantly telling yourself “I am using a pencil” as you take notes? Just because we may use Reason to solve an issue which has our immediate attention doesn’t mean we are conscious of our Reason at that moment.

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