Reason is non-negotiable..........or is it?

Nebuchadnezzar

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This is the title of Harvard psychologist Stephen Pinker’s latest book. He says that Reason is the core principle of the Enlightenment but that it is under attack and undervalued by many in today’s world. He spoke last night in TCD as part of the Neurohumanities Lecture series on this theme.....a sold out event, was anyone lucky enough to attend?

Reason is non-negotiable. Try to argue against it, or to exclude it from some realm of knowledge, and you've already lost the argument, because you're using reason to make your case. And no, this isn't having "faith" in reason (in the same way that some people have faith in miracles), because we don't "believe" in reason; we use reason.
Beyond this he believes that reason and humanism are inherently linked and that progress in knowledge goes hand in hand with ethical progress. This develops on further his argument in his previous book The Better Angels of our Nature. which set out that violence, both on an individual and state level, was decreasing over time.

I think Pinker is wrong on several points.

1. Progress based on reason does not necessarily result in progress in ethics. The Enlightenment as well as producing Liberalism and Humanism also created the barbarities of Nazism and Stalinism. Reason can conflict with liberty. The freedom and autonomy of the individual can be constrained by the logic of reason. Reason can lead to tyranny....a problem which can be traced back to Socrates/Plato.

2. Violence and reason are not inversely related or at least Pinker makes no allowance for error in his analysis. War is less likely to affect the average person today that 500 years ago but the consequences of war today are potentially far worse given the potential of modern weaponry to cause destruction on a global scale.

3. Ethics in its humanist form relies on the principle that all humans are of equal worth, a principle that it shared by many other belief systems. However, unlike say Christianity which bases this upon the idea that God created all humans in his image, humanism relies on reason as its foundation for this principle. However, are all humans of equal worth and will this always be so? It’s a reasonable principle given that the inherent differences between people in general are insignificant. However, what about in the future if/when genetic and AI enhancement of humans will result in major differences between people. Will an immortal human with major cognitive enhancement(and financial resources) be of equal value of any standard human?

https://theconversation.com/steven-pinker-lauds-reason-but-people-need-freedom-this-might-not-end-well-91928

Correction....the title of his book is Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress.
 
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Levellers

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There is no relationship between reason and reality.

Donnie in the US, Leo here and Teasy in the UK. Where's the reason in that?
 

Nebuchadnezzar

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There is no relationship between reason and reality.

Donnie in the US, Leo here and Teasy in the UK. Where's the reason in that?
Post truth world....Trump and BREXIT are part of a reaction against reason.
 

Nebuchadnezzar

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I think Trump and BREXIT are perfect examples of politics based on emotion instead of reason.
 

gerhard dengler

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That would have been an interesting talk to have listened to.

I heard him being interviewed by matt cooper on radio yesterday
 

Watcher2

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I think Trump and BREXIT are perfect examples of politics based on emotion instead of reason.
Not all emotions are formed in a vacuum. Have you considered if there are reasons for those emotions that led to Brexit and Trumps election?
 

Nebuchadnezzar

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Not all emotions are formed in a vacuum. Have you considered if there are reasons for those emotions that led to Brexit and Trumps election?
Reasons that are not based on reason. Trump does not support the interests of his core supporters. Will he improve the lot of disenchanted white middle America? No. Will BREXIT make Britain great again? Obviously not.
 

Watcher2

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Reasons that are not based on reason. Trump does not support the interests of his core supporters. Will he improve the lot of disenchanted white middle America? No. Will BREXIT make Britain great again? Obviously not.
Are you sure you are not conflating rationality with reason? They are not necessarily the same.
 

Nebuchadnezzar

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Are you sure you are not conflating rationality with reason? They are not necessarily the same.
No I don’t think I am. What’s the difference? Rationality is a process that is based on reason. There is a distinction between Rationalism and Reason.
 

Watcher2

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No I don’t think I am. What’s the difference? Rationality is a process that is based on reason. There is a distinction between Rationalism and Reason.
Take your two examples, trumps election and Brexit. While each event could be consider irrational, I believe there are reasons for them.
 

Volatire

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Goya said it best



Of course Pinker is a ludicrous spoofer. A journalist masquerading as heir to the enlightenment.
 

Lumpy Talbot

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No
The OP is fairly bizarre. Crediting the Enlightenment with Nazism and Stalinism and then goes on to waffle about xtianity which is neither rational nor reasonable seeing as it requires something called 'faith' to overcome both.

You might as well credit the Enlightenment with the assassination of John F Kennedy, the Beatles and computer software.
 

Nebuchadnezzar

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The OP is fairly bizarre. Crediting the Enlightenment with Nazism and Stalinism and then goes on to waffle about xtianity which is neither rational nor reasonable seeing as it requires something called 'faith' to overcome both.

You might as well credit the Enlightenment with the assassination of John F Kennedy, the Beatles and computer software.
You don’t accept that Stalinism via Marx traces back a lineage to the Enlightenment, nor that Nazism via eugenics, Nietzsche, Darwin likewise connects back to the same?
 
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benroe

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You don’t accept that Stalinism via Marx traces back a lineage to the Enlightenment, nor that Nazism via eugenics, Nitsche, Darwin likewise connects back to the same?
Why would you think that extreme ideologies are the result of reason, communism requires that everyone is forced to be equal when its blatantly obvious that none of us are the same, nazism requires a super race of which there is none.
Reason is the enemy of pure ideology, it will always expose our differences and the fact that we can only reasonably assume that we will never all agree on anything.
 

The Field Marshal

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Reason is always negotiable until it meets logic.
 

Cellachán Chaisil

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You don’t accept that Stalinism via Marx traces back a lineage to the Enlightenment, nor that Nazism via eugenics, Nietzsche, Darwin likewise connects back to the same?
Using knowledge acquired through reason in order to shore up irrational prejudice/decision-making is not the same thing.
 


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