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Author Topic: Can reason be humanized and remain reasonable?  (Read 2646 times)

Offline coberst

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Can reason be humanized and remain reasonable?
« on: 30/03/2009 00:09:52 »
Can reason be humanized and remain reasonable?

The pre-Socratic, which became the traditional view of rationality, was that thinking was essentially contemplative action; thinking was regarded as an unmediated interfacing between the thinker and the object of thought.  This tradition also drew a distinct line between theoretical and practical thinking.

Aristotle considered practical thinking was human action whereas theory was a communion with the divine.  Man was considered to be essentially a theoretical being guided by a search for truth.  Only when practical concerns were bracketed could this communion take place.

“It is worth noting that for Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, and even Spinoza, desires and passions were not original properties of the human soul but the ‘disturbances’ it suffered as a result of its union with the body and which it could and should constantly endeavor to transcend.”

The first attack on this traditional view was via Hobbes, refined by Locke and the French Enlightenment.  They argued that man was essentially a practical creature constantly in search for happiness.  As Voltaire said “the passions are the wheels which make all these machines go”.

The second line of attack came from Hegel and Kant.  Kant said that it was the perceiver that placed order upon the universe and that the knower could not know the thing-in-itself, i.e. reality is out there but we can not know it in any absolute fashion.  Reality for us is the reality we create in response to our inner cognitive process driven by the sensations from the world out there. 

Hegel argued that human thought was “culturally and historically conditioned and could not transcend the categories and assumptions of its time.”

“Marx married liberal psychology to Hegel’s historicism…Human thought was determined by interest…not in individual but in socio-historical terms…Each individual thought, he believed, in terms of the categories characteristic of his class…Such limited and distorted thought Marx called ideology.”

Ideology is the BIG problem of our times and the BIG question is ‘can the historically naïve traditional theory of the rational model be revised without destroying rationality completely?’  In other words can rationality be recovered from its heavenly haunts and be placed securely and solely within the human world without losing the positive aspect of reason.

Many humans express this common sense view of belonging to a supernatural world through their religious belief; however, even those who are not religious are often captives of the mind/body dichotomy that is so prevalent in Western philosophy. 

I think that to deal effectively with this paradox we must become sophisticated enough to comprehend its source and to modify it at that point or not at all.

Cognitive science has introduced a new way of viewing the world and our self by declaring a new paradigm which is called the embodied mind. The primary focus is upon the fact that there is no mind/body duality but that there is indeed an integrated mind and body. The mind and body are as integrated as is the heart and the cardiovascular system.  Mind and body form a gestalt (a structure so integrated as to constitute a functional unit with properties not derivable by summation of its parts).

The human thought process is dominated by the characteristic of our integrated body. The sensorimotor neural network is an integral part of mind. The neural network that makes movement and perception possible is the same network that processes our thinking.

Quotes from Knowledge and Belief in Politics: The Problem of Ideology edited by Robert Benewick, R. N. Berki, and Bhikhu Parekh


 

Offline akhenaten

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Can reason be humanized and remain reasonable?
« Reply #1 on: 04/04/2009 01:38:26 »
Even if we accepted that we are thinking machines it is hard to be completely rational as various chemicals flowing through our biological machine sometimes make us "feel" certain ways. Say you feel anxious, with or without an external definable cause, you go to your doctor and he prescribes a chemical that counteracts your inner chemicals and the anxiety disappears. That maybe viewed as a good thing but "rationally" there are times we should feel uncomfortable such as in times of mortal danger. Then of course we are animals that have evolved and survived via natural selection, and in some instances that survival was not due to "rationality" or "reason" but instinct. So even if we are simply biological thinking machines we are sometimes driven by forces that are not "reasonable" but are nevertheless human. I do not know if your are female or male, I would guess male, in either case it doesn't matter for say you see someone you really "fancy" and you just want them but there are others who also want him/her are you going to follow you instincts and "just go for it". Or are you going to be rational and apply Nash's Equilibrium Theory and go for a less attractive (to you) or be unreasonable and go for what you want? Which for you is the rational option? :)
« Last Edit: 04/04/2009 01:42:32 by akhenaten »
 

Offline coberst

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Can reason be humanized and remain reasonable?
« Reply #2 on: 04/04/2009 15:06:08 »
Traditional Western view is that the soul, mind, spirit (whatever one chooses to call it) is non material; it is part of some other kingdom. How can we place the mind and body as a gestalt, i.e. all material, nothing heavenly, i.e. humanizing reason?

I have copied several paragraphs of an article from “The Atlantic” because you have to be a member to read the full article.


“Despite the vast number of religions, nearly everyone in the world believes in the same things: the existence of a soul, an afterlife, miracles, and the divine creation of the universe. Recently psychologists doing research on the minds of infants have discovered two related facts that may account for this phenomenon. One: human beings come into the world with a predisposition to believe in supernatural phenomena. And two: this predisposition is an incidental by-product of cognitive functioning gone awry. Which leads to the question Is God an Accident?” 

“Enthusiasm is building among scientists for the view that religion emerged not to serve a purpose—not as an opiate or a social glue—but by accident.  It is a by-product of biological adaptations gone awry.”

“We see the world of objects as separate from the world of minds, allowing us to envision souls and an afterlife; and our system of social understanding infers goals and desires, where none exist, making us animists and creationists.”

“The theory of natural selection is an empirically supported account of our existence.  But almost nobody believes it.  We may intellectually grasp it, but it will never feel right.  Our gut feeling is that design requires a designer.” 

This is an article in the December issue of “The Atlantic” http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200512/god-accident



 

Offline graham.d

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Can reason be humanized and remain reasonable?
« Reply #3 on: 04/04/2009 17:21:44 »
"[...] nearly everyone in the world believes in the same things: the existence of a soul, an afterlife, miracles, and the divine creation of the universe."

"Nearly everyone" is a huge exaggeration, though I would accept aspects of the intentions behind the statement.

“The theory of natural selection is an empirically supported account of our existence.  But almost nobody believes it.  We may intellectually grasp it, but it will never feel right.  Our gut feeling is that design requires a designer.”

I would say the same about saying "But almost nobody believes it". This may be closer to the case in the USA but, if so, it is a very parochial point of view. Even for the USA I would not say "almost nobody".

The general idea that there is a "God-spot" in the brain has been voiced elsewhere and is not dissimilar from the view expressed here.

I would tend to agree that aspects of human thought processes, both learnt and biologically in-built by natural selection, which were beneficial for human survival in past times, can lead to a human species that may, or may not be, well suited to today's social environment. Survival, though, depends on an ability to adapt and, in the case of humans, to also use reason to see where the best path forwards leads, even if this is in contradiction to primitive drives. Tribalism is a good example of a past beneficial trait that leads to many of today's problems such as racialism, football violence, gang warfare and genocide (to name a few).

So I tend to agree with the value of using reasoning and doubting the aspects that may be instinctive - or at least trying to view these instincts rationally. On the other hand it would be unwise to dismiss all of the "traditional" wisdom, some of which is based on religious texts, as I don't think that all our moral codes can be simply derived from a set of simple premises. It is worth noting how these have been "adapted" over the centuries too.

 

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Can reason be humanized and remain reasonable?
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