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38699Re: Reason and Feeling

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  • hermanbtriplegood
    Jun 1, 2006
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      I cannot really deny the kernel of truth in what you are saying, or,
      at least, what I believe is the attitude behind it. What you say goes
      hand in hand with Bill's cogent remark about what interests people.

      It also goes along with what Louise pointed out is an important
      dimension to the ostensible disagreement about reason and feeling. It
      comes down to what personal is. The dimension of personal interest
      cannot be denied and ought not to be ignored.

      If I were to try and frame what I have been saying in a more personal
      way, I would say that my orientation to the philosophical is a kind
      of thinking that is already inherently oriented toward the idea of
      the unconditioned, that is, the absolute, and this, I call reason.

      I put my cards on the table, here, by stating that the idea of the a
      priori is a lively option for me, even within the practical realm of
      ethics. The idea of an absolute for reason, as well as for morals, is
      an idea that resonates very deeply within me. That is why, when I
      read Kant, for instance, he speaks a language that I can understand.
      Whether or not that resonance is merely psychological is part of the
      matter being debated here. Is this just my own personal take on the
      matter, or is it there some justification for the idea of an absolute
      reason for all and even of a moral absolute for all? I can almost
      guess what the answer to my question might be. Can we speak
      meaningfully about reasons that aren't just reasons on an arbitrary
      personal level, mere opinions, but reasons that apply to all persons,
      reasons that constitute knowledge and insight that can be
      communicated and can make an existential difference, in our word, for
      the sake of making it a better place to live?

      I am with Kant, and other philosophers of his kind, in that my answer
      to these questions would be, yes, we can talk meaningfully about such
      things as moral absolutes, the unconditioned, and thinking that goes
      beyond the merely personal and into the realm of inter-subjective
      shared practical interests.

      This more personal way of putting it perhaps leaves some room for
      respect for disagreement about which is more important, reason or
      feeling. Of course, my stand for reason is something that I bring to
      the conversation in a spirited and even passionate way, that is, with
      plenty of feeling.

      In every case, it is some concrete person who is doing the reasoning.
      When one begins to talk of reason in the abstract, as if it were some
      kind of entity that enjoyed an existence independent of the people
      who do the reasoning we can easily get lost in that kind of abstract
      shuffle, then the conversation loses its footing in the concrete
      world of real people and real experiences. We forget that when we say
      reason this and reason that we are actually talking about people this
      and people that, when they think in a certain manner that is called

      I still stand by my high regard for reason as something exemplary for
      the human being. I may be against the contemporary grain in this, but
      I am with a long standing philosophical tradition of high regard for
      the life of reason, a tradition that goes all the way back to
      classical Greek philosophy. Do not mistake this as an argument from
      authority, or a bald faced statement that this is the way things
      ought to be merely because this is the way things have always been.
      There is good reason for the long standing high regard for reason in
      our intellectual tradition, and it has to do with reason's practical
      sucesses. Reason has given us science and medicine, morals and
      politics, education and culture. Feeling alone has not accomplished
      all of this. Perhaps feeling, schooled by reason has accomplished all
      of this. You may call this passionate defense of reason something
      merely "quaint", however, I do not think that by your choice of that
      word as an epithet you make an authentic effort to come to terms with
      the classicism of reason that I am attempting to communicate here.
      What is new and modern isn't necessarily what is better. What old and
      classic isn't necessarily irrelevant.

      I do not see reason as merely a system of rules of inference to be
      slavishly followed. It isn't only about being certain or secure in
      one's conclusions. Although, I am with Kant on this, because I happen
      to agree with him, that reason is best understood as an orientation
      toward the idea of the unconditioned in thinking, that is, the

      Nor do I see reason as if it were merely some theory of knowledge or
      an epistemology. When I mention morals I am pointing directly at that
      TOPS, a theory of a practical something, that you mention. The very
      conjunction between theoretical and practical in your locution,
      however, tends to obscure the deep unity that conjoins theory and
      practice in reasoning itself.

      I hear the complaint, all the time, "That might be true in theory,
      but it doesn't work in practice," and, to be frank with you, when I
      hear that kind of complaint, I know that I am dealing with a shallow,
      and not very carefully considered, bifurcated way of the thinking
      that is, in itself, imminently impractical and theoretically naive.

      My friend, the reason why so many things do not work in practice is
      because the theory we bring to that practice is not adequately
      developed. Just ask any engineer who is attempting to solve a complex
      problem in structural mechanics, what his remedy to the poor design
      of a bridge would be. He certainly would not consider, for even a
      minute, tossing theory out the window for the sake of some empirical
      guesswork in the name of practice. If I knew that was the kind of
      engineering that was behind the design of the passenger plane I am
      about to board, I would rather walk to my destination. The remedy to
      an unworkable practice is a better theory.

      It isn't a feeling that flies rockets to the Moon and back, it is
      reason (in other words, it is thinking man oriented toward the
      necessities of physics through reason). It isn't a feeling that
      designs a bridge that will not collapse as soon as the first dozen
      commuters try to cross it. Feeling doesn't land a passenger plane
      carrying a hundred people safely on the runway. It isn't feeling that
      attempts to draft a constitution for a people that guarantees, as far
      as possible, in a world that we fully admit is contingent and fraught
      with uncertainties, their civil rights in accord with an ideal of
      freedom, and of human dignity.

      We bring the idea to the empirically contingent world for the sake of
      practical action in that world. We don't always succeed in fulfilling
      the idea in experience. But, if on account of the imperfection of our
      own understanding of a world that is not fully given to us through
      our experiences, if we give up on the notion that it can make sense
      to us, that the world is ultimately intelligible to us, that we can
      strive to know it and understand it, then, we give up on all projects
      and plans, we abdicate the very idea of a "for the sake of" something
      and, effectively, without purpose, through this euthanasia of our own
      reason, we commit spiritual and cultural suicide.

      It really comes down to optimism versus pessimism. The optimist
      believe in reason and that the world is reasonable. This is a
      rational faith, not a knowing. It is, indeed, a need for reason,
      without which reason would be impotent to effect practical change for
      the better. This issue of optimism versus pessimism, as I see it,
      isn't about the way things are in the world. It is about the way
      things need to be for mankind in the world.


      --- In existlist@yahoogroups.com, "Trinidad Cruz" <cruzprdb@...>
      > --- In existlist@yahoogroups.com, "Herman B. Triplegood" <hb3g@>
      > Try TOPS Herm. Theory of practical something. Epistemology can only
      > ever be partial and temporary. It cannot even directly reflect. Just
      > because it cannot escape the constraints of time and circumstance
      > not mean that it cannot be valid in time and circumstance. If you
      > a terrific writer, and you are, it's still your view: limited and
      > quaint. That is the constraint of our nature on all of us, and why
      > must always challenge pragmatically, or go nowhere at all.
      > http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/rorty/
      > tc
      > > In talking about reason I am talking about reason as a canon, not
      > reason as a hypostatized theoretical entity. This is not a theory of
      > everything. Without a canon of reasoning there can be no theory of
      > anything. The exposition of such a canon of reasoning and its
      > justification cannot be achieved by means of mere definition. It can
      > only be accomplished by means of a concrete process of reflection
      > is grounded in acts of judgment, as Kant would say, a critique of
      > >
      > > The very word "epistemology" which means "theory of knowledge" is
      > oxymoron based upon an infinite definitional regress. Before one can
      > say what constitutes a theory of everything, what constitutes a
      > of anything must first be explicated. Prior to this, however, one
      > have a theory of knowledge. But, in order to have a theory of
      > knowledge one must know what counts as a good theory. In other
      > one must have a theory of a theory. And so it goes, ad infinitum.
      > >
      > > The fallacy that goes with this regress is precisely the confusion
      > that exists between definition and exposition in philosophical
      > discourse. The idea that there can ever be such a thing as a theory
      > knowledge is a fallacious notion that arises from the inappropriate
      > application of axiomatic discourse to a subject matter that requires
      > dialectical discourse.
      > >
      > > The use of the term "moralistic" as an epithet only serves to
      > the well and to distract discourse from an objective discussion of
      > moral absolute. That there is such a thing as a moral absolute
      > really be denied. The assertion that there is no moral absolute is
      > itself an assertion of an absolute with respect to moral order,
      > namely, that it is absolutely relative, which is a self-
      > assertion.
      > >
      > > Hb3g
      > >
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