Friday, 29 June 2007

Pure Reason as a Means to Truth

An awareness that subordinates itself to pure reason must end in absolute nihilism, ie total scepticism about language itself. This is because if one managed to follow reason through to its end, which is to say to its root, one would arrive at the inescapable point where the first step of reason is itself a leap of faith; a leap of faith in which one decides to accept language as inherently corresponding to truth or meaning, and hence a means of divining truth. In fact, there are two main leaps of faith being made here; that truth exists, and that the symbolic world of language corresponds to it. The slave to reason would be forced into the mentioned position of absolute nihilism, as by their own terms of strict rationalism, the entire edifice of their thought depends on an impermissible starting point. They would have nothing to base a faith in language's being imbued with a meaning with which life is also imbued, and so language would have to be abandoned before it begins.


Neil Forsyth said...

Thankfully, we abolished slavery some time ago. Therefore, could it not end in a philosophical position other than nihilism, such as pragmatism? That is, reason (practical and theoretical) is accepted as contingent, truth and knowledge instrumental (handy for organising experience) but fallible, open to revision and only valued in so far as they can be confirmed in the course of experience.

Gearoid said...

There's a certain Popperian flavour to your posting Neil I think (we 'know' nothing conclusively, all truth are provisional only, counting as truths only until – and this possibility always remains – one falsifying instance becomes know), maybe science works or should work this way but it seems a strange vague way to go through life, never really believing in anything either as a proposition or – because this implies something ‘more’ – living authentically, taking things on faith etc

Andrew said...

You are right in terms of how it would almost certainly result, Neil, were someone to see that reason has at its root something inconsistent with pure reason or rationality. The nihilistic scepticism to thought itself is the ideal or theoretically true position rather than the position that would arise in the hypothetucal reasoner. I'll probably try to flesh out my thought here a bit more later, but essentially I am driving at the falseness of the position of the pure rationalists & the offshoots such as utilitarianism which seems to be covered by your description of the resluting pragmatists. But it is a a kind of pretence at certainties built on a root of uncertainty- the entire edifice on non-existent as opposed to shakey ground.
However, the extreme cynicism of my stance is towards Reason that pretends to stand as a truth diviner apart from life, rather than towards language and truth. What especially strikes me is that mind produces language, but then people insist on this very mind being subservient to the language that it produces in the first place as a means of discovering truth, which is mind. There are also other symbolic & deeper worlds like painting & music which mind also produces but which don't claim to be the absolutes in truth divining. Though I may be leaping a bit too quickly into this territory of art being a truth diviner....but language & visual arts have far stronger claims as to their selves corresponding directly to truth or mind, than does language, and yet it's more likely to be among the "pure rationalists" that one is most likely to encounter demands that truth be understood on its terms.

Andrew said...

I should have specified..."the entire edifice of rationalism standing on, in its own terms, non-existent as opposed to shakey ground."£ As in the terms of pure reasoning, leaps of faith inadmissable.

J. K. Jones said...

Interesting post.

Have you all considered Van Till's method of solving this problem?

Mr. Forsyth,

Pragmatism? What works? What works for what end? How do we decide what we are to work toward?

Andrew said...

Thanks for the link, JK- looks like alot of stuff of potential interest at the site; when I've a bit of time to give the piece a proper look I'll hopefully give a more meaningful response.