The Inadequacy of Reason

I was thinking the other day about different kinds of reasonableness.

There is reasoning that follows the dictates of logic based on falsifiable premises and avoiding contradiction. And, then, sometimes the passions get a hold of a person and things can be believed or acted upon based on poor reasoning-things that don’t follow from the supposed justification of the reasoner.

The philosopher, Immanuel Kant, put forth the idea of practical reason. He thought that a belief in God and after-life was necessary (even though not based on falsifiable premises) in order that man behave moralistically and ethically toward his fellows, since such behavior is more difficult than acting exclusively out of self-interest.

Leo Tolstoy wrote A Confession toward the end of his life during a time of extreme disillusionment regarding the purpose of life and the meaninglessness and insignificance of the part he had played in it. His assumption had always been that reason was the ground of existence; that any and all insight and understanding that might be achievable would be so exclusively through reason. And now reason told him that it was all for naught; his existence made no difference in the grand scheme of things. Better to die, he thought.

When he looked around him he saw people engaged in hedonistic pursuits or religious endeavors, neither of which he felt validated a reasoned life. His awakening came upon considering the peasant who toiled and suffered throughout his life but was able to maintain his will to life positively. Maybe lacking formal education and not having too many big ideas to think about had something to do with it, but in their sense of spirit, irrational as it seemed to be, Tolstoy found the answer to his dilemma: reason must embrace the irrational and sustain a faith in the human spirit.

So, if it is fair to assume logical reasoning will not provide the final answers to life’s big questions is a leap into faith despite the irrationality and or absurdities of such the answer?

I guess I’ll stay open to all possibilities: enjoy the beauties of logical reasoning while embracing the spirit. How can I go wrong?


2 thoughts on “The Inadequacy of Reason

  1. here’s to absurdities!!
    i discovered an equation i’d never learned recently:

    K : = {(i, x)

    it’s fantastic. i read about it in jonathan holt’s “abduction,” were a character explains it using the village barber logic problem (there is a barber in the village who shaves all men who do not shave themselves. does he shave himself?) … logic is a nice tool, but not infallible, there’s always a loop somewhere, and that’s the escape. insert absurdity….*here*. escape mess.

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