Reason

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Thom,

With regard to your comments surrounding a National Day of Reason, it sounded like, and I hope I am wrong, that you believe reason and religion have faith in common. I could not disagree more. Reason is based in evidence, the scientific method, and its claims are falsifiable. The same cannot be said for religion. Just as no one can prove that Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy does not exist, no one can prove that God does not exist because these are supernatural entities and one cannot prove a negative. Thus, the existence or nonexistence of supernatural entities is not a testable or falsifiable hypothesis. On the other hand, one can prove (in a probabilistic as opposed to an absolute sense -- a notion connected to the falsifiability that is the backbone of the scientific method) that a particular drug is effective in treating a particular condition. This is not a matter of faith. It is a matter of empirical evidence.

As to the holiday itself, I am very much in favor of providing the people with a "day off" (as opposed to calling it a "holiday," which, as you point out, is a term with religious roots) in the name of reason because it is an opportunity to highlight an idea whose presence plays an integral role in the health of our nation and whose absence undermines the pursuit of the fair, just, and sustainable future that I know you and I both would like to see. Further, Americans are overworked and overstressed relative to their Western European brothers and sisters, so one more day off would be a step in the right direction. I write that only half tongue in cheek because, as you know, American productivity has steadily risen, while wages have remained stagnant since the 1970s, all while the French moved to a 35-hour work week, the Spanish take daily siestas, and the European community granted their citizens at least 4 weeks of vacation per year by law, laws which are present in one form or another in every industrialized nation but one. Which one might that be? You guessed it. The good ole US of A.

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lil-buddha
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Reason?!

Anything that is used in a programatic way, literally anything, ends up as some kind of "religion". How many scientific claims have resulted infoscience, research funded by interested parties, and ideas that may have no relation to what really happens "out there".

When you think of prayer, as is, it can be meditation, either directed by the imagination, or by a theological system of some kind of religious body, institutional, or otherwise. Trouble is that, the Western religious infrastructures dominate the landscape, and the images that are worshipped look Christian, Jewish, or Moslem in macro. If we could take the Oriental models, the forms of Believing that are based on introspection, of looking inside ourselves.

In some ways its more reasonable than the Western view of rationalism--anyone who has been through enough acupuncture sessions learn about achieving Harmony, that someone that look at your tongue and tell ya' what's goin' down inside your body without expensive tests. What is reasonable about that, in a Western sense, that is. sensible Western scholars would tell you it's nonsense, but . . . it works!

Yoga, too, in some ways is a "faith based" exercise system.

Were there a "Day of Meditation", a time when people could introspect, discover ourselves, as part of their communities, search for some kind of balance. If I am correct, Martin Buber's notion of "I and Thou", where every living thing has some relation with the objects it connects, if only for a second, makes more sense than the Reason some fanatical rationalists propose. It ain't easy, but even the most rabid Pentacostals would find discover how the people who don't believe in Jesus share the "same space" as the people who are searching for Nirvana.

Then again, it ain't reasonable, it's not rational, but its very, very universal. In the right atmosphere it can create the kind of unity

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upperrnaz12348
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I grant you that scientific research is not free from the corrupting hand of moneyed interests. Of course, neither is religion, or politics, or athletics, or just about any enterprise that offers those in power an opportunity to grab more power. So I really do not think that line of reasoning really gets us anywhere relative to this particular topic in that it still remains that reason is the best tool in our tool box. It is what separates humans from the rest of the animal kingdom. It is what allows us to adapt to life in different regions and climates, build complex structures, play musical instruments, etc. And, yes, it is also the culprit that one can blame for the destructive behavior exbitited by humans throughout their history -- though one could also make a case that this has more to do with our less rational and more primitive and impulsive motivations or drives that center around sex and violence. Were it not for science, I would be dead right now, as would most above the age of 30, if we were living during the time of the cave dwellers, so let's not throw the empirical baby out with the dirty bath water. Instead, let's strive to keep the bath water clean so that we can be assured that the results of these studies can be trusted. Of course, I support the notion that we should all be skeptical of any single study, even one that was not financed by moneyed interests, if its results have not been shown to be repeatable, but that gets into being an educated consumer of research. The point is, yoga may be great. If fact, I practice it myself. However, you saying it is great qualifies as annecdotal evidence, whereas a series of scientific studies that look at large samples of yogis and compares their health to that of large samples of non-yogis (while controlling for other related factors), would sway my opinion much more. The effects of yoga and meditation can and have been studied. What cannot be studied is the existence of supernatural entities. Thus, I do not subscribe to the notion that you seem to espouse, namely, that science is bad because it is corruptible. I favor a more nuanced understanding of the role that science and rationality can and does play in our lives. And I think that while it plays that role, there is still room for the practice of meditation and yoga. It can both be true that rationality is worth striving for in all pursuits, and that the practice of meditation and yoga actually helps us in those pursuits by allowing us to recharge and reenvigorate the mind and the body so that rational societal advances can be attained in a healthier manner.

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lil-buddha
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May. 6, 2010 12:21 pm

There is a similarly themed thread going on here as well.

lil-buddha is spot on with everything here. Not to derail the topic too much, but to echo lil-buddha on yoga, acupuncture as well has yet to be proven to "work".

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reed9
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Apr. 8, 2010 11:26 am

Reason relies upon a point of view. The discussion begins from there.

It was obvious the sun revolved around the earth. Didn't it rise in the east and settle in the west? It could be observed moving across the sky. It turns out even observable "reason" led to error. The sun doersn't revolve around the earth.

In our daily lives, "reason" relies on interpretations made in the past. Whether conclusions are accurate or not are irrelevant...they'll make sense as long as they support a "logical" extention of prior conclusions/oservations.

From time to time, someone has a different view...and a new "truth" comes into being.

Retired Monk - "Ideology is a disease"

polycarp2
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Jul. 31, 2007 4:01 pm
Quote polycarp2:

Reason relies upon a point of view. The discussion begins from there.

It was obvious the sun revolved around the earth. Didn't it rise in the east and settle in the west? It could be observed moving across the sky. It turns out even observable "reason" led to error. The sun doersn't revolve around the earth.

In our daily lives, "reason" relies on interpretations made in the past. Whether conclusions are accurate or not are irrelevant...they'll make sense as long as they support a "logical" extention of prior conclusions/oservations.

From time to time, someone has a different view...and a new "truth" comes into being.

Retired Monk - "Ideology is a disease"

I would have said intuition led to the conclusion that the sun revolved around the earth and reason is what eventually showed us that it was the other way around. Or perhaps one could say it was simply arrogance that led to the geocentric model. Reminds me of a wonderful anecdote about the philosopher Wittgenstein...

"Tell me," the great twentieth-century philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein once asked a friend, "why do people always say it was natural for man to assume that the sun went around the Earth rather than that the Earth was rotating?" His friend replied, "Well, obviously because it just looks as though the Sun is going around the Earth." Wittgenstein responded, "Well, what would it have looked like if it had looked as though the Earth was rotating?"

What would you then call the faculty that eventually led to our discovery of the heliocentric model? If reason is simply one of many valid points of view, why is the heliocentric model more "correct" than the geocentric model? Why is someone wrong for believing the Earth is flat, evolution is false, or pigs can fly?

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reed9
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Wittgenstein also said something about knowing more than we could put into words. Is that "rational?"

The big point about the Day of Reason is that epistemology has advanced beyond the basic presumptions of the Enlightentment rationalists. Even with company from Spiritualists, Transcendentalists and Emersonian Romantics, the idea of pure reason did have a strong hold on the culture of the 19th Century. It even turned American religion into a matter of decision and will power, a morality of the Age of Reason if there ever was one.

Science embraced it fully. Modernity was all about dispelling the old myths and superstitions to find the new wonders of science. Getting to the Secular Meaning of the Gospel was the point of identifying the historical Jesus and getting rid of the myths and miracles. Or it was a good way to leave all that nonsense behind.

Reason continues to be a very important component in our knowledge process. But it is not really how we think. It cannot be. We live in our stories and meet what we experience with a grid of experience-based expectations. We evaluate what we encounter by what we have known before and have to learn how to include new data and where it fits.

Using reason as a heuristic discipline is a very good thing. How we reflect upon and analyze what we have experienced or learned from others puts experience and our narrative in perspective. But it does not get us out of the living and experiential psychology to real objectivity.

To get what "I process information, therefor I am" could mean requires a shift in the presumption about knowing to include all the information experienced by the brain/body system. It means adding the instant "blick" to credibility and not just the reviewed and analyzed and edited version. I cannot tell you how I do jazz improv as a rational activity. It is something far more intuitive and "thoughtless." That means I have to know what I am doing but not think about doing it to do it. It is being in the zone.

I expressed my distaste for the National Day of Prayer on religious and public policy grounds. I think the proposed alternative runs similar risks to its own intended purpose, but we also need to get over the Age of Reason and into a more natural and complex epistemological understanding of what it means to be human.

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DRC
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Quote DRC:

Wittgenstein also said something about knowing more than we could put into words. Is that "rational?"

Depends on the context. If the argument is that the conceptual framework of thought is more fundamental than language, in other words, abandoning linguistic determinism, then yes, it is rational.

Quote DRC:Reason continues to be a very important component in our knowledge process. But it is not really how we think. It cannot be. We live in our stories and meet what we experience with a grid of experience-based expectations. We evaluate what we encounter by what we have known before and have to learn how to include new data and where it fits.

I would never argue that we are particularly rational in how we think or feel. Scientific reasoning is an unnatural state. It is precisely because we are not rational beings that science and reason are so very important - they help us navigate our various cognitive biases.

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reed9
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Apr. 8, 2010 11:26 am

Exactly, they are unnatural disciplines. That means they are also not permanent or natural states of being. We use it as part of our cognitive processes, and to be honest about our epistemological nature, we have to include the narrative frame and process as the normal and natural state of consciousness.

The economic religion depended upon a false notion of human rationality, one where "good choices" in a world of linear and literal mechanical "interdependence" would result in the common good. It was a metaphysics that did not account for true interdependence and collective interest as anything other than the sum of the individual parts. The "macro" was just the psychological extension of the "micro." It was excruciatingly rational and logical in its scholasticism.

Intellectual honesty day might be nice. I would like to link it to moral integrity day to get the dialectic going. That way we could talk about speaking the truth to each other in love, and that would be something worth celebrating together.

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Economic theory has always been just a step above superstition. It gussies itself up in the language of math and science, but without the integrity or substance. You're right that it depended (depends?) on a false notion of human rationality, that people act out of an enlightened self-interest, because it has unfortunately been subsumed with ideology and is insensible to evidence. But all that is to say that economics has been tenaciously irrational.

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Reason, has nothing to do with logic or theology.

What is Reasonable or the act of reasoning is totally different from person to person. My reasoning in a certain situation could be totally different from someone elses. At least logic has some universal rules that can be applied in a given case.

Reasoning often depends on leaps of faith or preconcieved notions and emotions in the decision process. Reasoning is much more like free association.

Yellow....

bannana...

Sweet....

Apple....

Pie....

Lemon Marange.

Eggs.....

Yolk....

Yellow.

Not logical but reasoning.

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spankycrissy
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Jul. 31, 2007 4:01 pm

My goodness, the semantical contortions that go on at this site.

It is common to use the terms reason and logic interchangeably. Yes, fine, it we want to be technical, logic is a subset of reason. (Which of course means they absolutely have something to do with each other, despite your assertion.)

And of course, there are multiple definitions of reason. So if you're defining reasoning as simply the chain of arguments leading to a conclusion, regardless of the validity of those arguments, then sure, "reason" in that limited sense can be compatible with religion or free association, or just about anything you choose.

I apologize if I seem to be coming off as obnoxious, but I have to admit I'm getting increasingly irritated. There seems to be an awful lot of attempts on the message boards to essentially score points with cute semantical tricks or dubious "logical" conundrums. (I put that in quotes because the underlying logic is totally absent, but they are presented as though they were logically sound. Prime example in another thread was, to paraphrase: Atheists are defined by a disbelief in God, therefore the idea of God is necessary for atheism to exist, therefore God exists. Which kinda makes your head hurt.)

If this is to be a place where disparate folks from across the nation or planet, have substantial debates and discuss real ideas, this sort of thing has got to stop.

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reed9
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Apr. 8, 2010 11:26 am

How can I put this?

Pompous twiddly tripe.

Real people with real ideas and opinions comming out of real unique individual minds.

Can I go grab a notable quote from wiki?

Sure, and I have. But only to lend some flavor to a conversation. Never to be a basis for it.

If Einstein and Feynman wish to argue they can find each other on the next plane of existence.

I have ideas that have been influenced by great minds but my mind is my own and I am willing to share my thoughts.

I am a part time artist, nothing bothers me more than when a critic dissects a piece of art with " it was influenced by" and "he is obviously from the school of".

More so the insult when someone announces that they have no intellectual equity at the party they are attending and huffs out the door incensed at the inconvenience of having to attend.

The reason that I like the conversations here are because we tend to leave the pretentious clap trap in the teachers lounge and proceed to the play ground where we can find a variety of simple games, sport and conversations.

I like chess, I tend to stay away from dodge ball.

I used to play chess with a guy at lunch every day and he always beat me or at best I could hold a draw.

One weekend I bought a book on chess and memorised a 3 move checkmate. the next work day, I used it and it worked perfectly.

My chess buddy never played with me again even though we worked together for a couple more years.

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spankycrissy
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Jul. 31, 2007 4:01 pm

It seems as though this thread has morphed from a discussion on reason to a meta-discussion. In other words, we are now engaged in discourse about how to engage in discourse. While I do agree that the journey is oft more important than the destination, and that the "how" is oft just as important as the "what," I would like to turn our attention back to the topic at hand.

There seems to be a few themes running through this series of threads, and the main theme appears to be how one defines reason and its limitations. The example of improvisational jazz was offered up as evidence of a human activity that cannot be explained by reason. I beg to differ. Were we having this discussion several hundred years ago, a similar argument could have been made relative to rain. "Water falls from the sky. How is this possible? Reason cannot explain it. It must be the gods." So, just because reason cannot explain a natural phenomenon now is no reason to assume that will still be the case several years, or several hundred years, from now.

I think there is something in our DNA that makes the idea of the existence of a supernatural realm attractive to us (there actually have already been studies in this area using brain imaging that point towards this being true), and so we tend to reflexively place phenomena we are currently unable to explain into the supernatural bucket. It is as if we implicitly believe that doing so embibes that phenomena with something of an exalted status. Improvisational jazz is special because it cannot be explained by mere reason. Love is special because it cannot be explained by reason.

I would submit to you that the parts of this world we already understand are no less "special" than those whose inner workings still elude us. I may understand the way in which a rose utilizes photosynthesis to harness the energy of the sun, the role that bees play in its pollination, and the function of its thorns. But knowing these facts does not prevent me from still marveling at the sight of that beautiful flower. Nor does my assumption -- one borne out of reason (i.e., based on history, previous scientific discoveries, etc.) -- that the mechanics of improvisation will one day be understood by science in any way hinder my ability to enjoy improvisational comedy, improvisational jazz, or the spontaneity of a child.

The supernatural realm is not subject to reason, but the natural world, and all the the forms of life, thought, behavior, and even emotion, contained within it, can and should be subjected to reasoned scrutiny. Socrates words, "the unexamined life is not worth living," never seemed more apt.

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lil-buddha
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May. 6, 2010 12:21 pm

You are so much more diplomatic than I am. My hats off to you. :)

Anyway, I apologize for my rant. I was tired and frustrated, but no excuse to be quite such an ass.

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reed9
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Apr. 8, 2010 11:26 am

Reed9, I have no problem with you, a serious participant who has thought deeply about the subject. Rant on when necessary and healthy. I learn from them too.

I am not big on the "supernatural." I think this is an epistemological error, and yes, you can find a real world, natural understanding even when science cannot lay bare the facts and the reasons.

Allow me to quote the pre-eminent theorist of jazz improv and I would add, creativity in general, Dr. Charles "Bird" Parker, saying "first you learn your axe, then you learn your music, then you forget it all and blow." It is the forget it all and blow state of mind that allows me to improvise, and if I stop to "think" rather than staying in a state of awareness, I stumble and fall. That instant apprehension and engagement at the state of awareness is "beyond reason" but not irrational or fantastical. That is all I have meant about the transcendence of reason to the full nature of our way of knowing.

What I am attacking is the idea that life is lived by reason and that clear-minded decisions and the pursuit of "rational" goals is how to go about living. I am all for thinking and reflecting, and I am even more for developing response patterns that avoid using fear and anxiety the basis for policy instead of an alert system to better reflection.

The idealization of Reason has harmed some of my friends in science who spend a lot of time tilting at theological windmills and outrage at the obvious abuses of "religion." It is funny how lacking in objectivity they often are about the larger field of religion or the ambiguities of the role of the church in this world. The intellectual outrage they feel about the insults done to Reason and Science are enough to set off tantrums in otherwise wise and good scientists.

Ironically, it is the investigations into the chemistry and response patterns of the brain that have, as with Newton, uncovered more information than its presumptions can explain or contain. Religious "experiences" that could not be explained by science now have a neurological basis for being something other than fantasies. But how that experience works in one's life narrative is not going to show up on a neuro-test.

Science does not give me much guide about how to be human. It provides a lot of information about what we are. Psychology does attempt to describe health v. dysfunction and why we are what we are. But what we do with that information is not what science tells us much about.

What I have tried to say consistently is that the metaphysical imagination used by some either works to make them better human beings or it gets in their way. Or sort of a both/and that they get to figure out, or not. Doing without a metaphysical imagination or a mythic narrative of meaning and human identity may be great, or not. If the latter works for you, fine. If you think the product being turned out by religion sucks, that is also worth notice.

You will find many religious people agreeing with you about bad religion and people of worthy character. Beyond that, however, the image of "reason" needs a redesign at least. Being in the wake of the Age of Reason does not mean an embrace of dogma and irrationality. It means "beyond reason" in the sense of integrating reason into a larger appreciation of our complex epistemoligical nature.

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DRC
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Quote DRC:

What I am attacking is the idea that life is lived by reason and that clear-minded decisions and the pursuit of "rational" goals is how to go about living.

Fortunately, that is not what I'm defending. I am all for wild, impractical moments, saying to hell with convention and doing what you're "supposed to do". I am pro exuberance and reveling in the experience of life.

When I was 26, I quit my job working in mental health, I got rid of almost all my belongings, and I got on a Greyhound with $200 in my pocket. I ended up getting off in Medford, OR, whereupon I looked around and said, "This place looks awful," and walked 12 miles south to Ashland, OR, where I stayed for a year. (And where I ended up doing miscellaneous labor and construction under the table, working with an illegal german immigrant.)

Not rational, one might say. But what is life if not an opportunity to experience and learn? So from a broader perspective on my ultimate development and happiness, I would argue it was rational.

But that is not the sort of reason or rationality I am defending. I've tried to be clear that my scope in these arguments is very much just how we can be confident something is (probably) true, how we can try to correct for logical fallacies and cognitive biases in our thinking, and that public policy ought to be based on sound logic and science.

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