Thursday, 30 March 2017

The limitations of reason 2

Previously I wrote about the limitations of reason, and suggested that the part of reality that cannot be reasoned about is very large, as though what can be reasoned about is equivalent to the top of a small table in the middle of a very large world.

Consider in any case that reason starts from premises, and premises come from experience. Reason itself generates nothing new - it merely re-arranges things in law-conformable patterns.

I should like you to indulge me in a thought experiment. Suppose it is the case that there is a world beyond or even prior to reason. Suppose further that you are someone who habitually interprets the world through reason. You test every claim and hypothesis against reason.

There is, I would emphasize, nothing wrong with that. There is a great deal to be said for pointing out contradictions and requiring evidence, especially for dangerous, tendentious and unpleasant opinions. There is, in effect, a proper use of reason and a proper realm in which it operates.

However, if you are such a person you may find it difficult to conceive of anything outside the reasoning world. You would be like the cartographer of old who leaves a blank where definite knowledge ends, or perhaps fills it with mermaids and fantastic creatures, or writes, 'here be tygers.' Although more usually these days it is those wedded to reason who insist on not merely leaving a blank but insisting that there is nothing there or that reason will one day fill the blank, given more research. Whereas it is those opposed to reason or who do not value it who fill the blanks with sirens of their own invention.

If reason is a game of chess, what do the pawns or even the kings and queens know of the world beyond the chequered squares? Reason cannot reason about that which is outside the world of that which can be reasoned about. It is impossible, like a Flatlander trying to point to the third dimension.

No comments:

Post a Comment