25 July 2008

Not by reason alone

What if the insistence on certainty - the need for axioms irrefutable for all time - is in itself an irrational desire? What if the definition of 'reason' has gradually narrowed to the point where it has become a limiting, rather than a liberating, tool that self-righteous rationalists use to bludgeon the 'unreasonable' others into submission? What if reason actually has boundaries, lines that if crossed bring us into a territory where we have no absolute right to be, where we are trespassers brazenly wearing the crown of conquerors?

In recent weeks new knowledge and fresh perspectives from sources as diverse as bioethics, sociology, neuroscience, art, mathematics, philosophy and religion (gasp!) have caused me to review my convictions regarding the supremacy of reason. It doesn't help that the issue is confounded by a generous serving of false dichotomies and false dilemmas (reason OR emotion, rationalism OR spontaneity). I'm beginning to notice the simplistic bifurcations that are so easily built by those with a vested interest in one side of the (often complex) issue.

For me the sense that a seeker of knowledge, of truth, should proceed along reason's road with caution is gaining strength. There are pot-holes on that road, and the detours and beaten tracks leading off it carry the promise of experiences that would complement, rather than contaminate, the sweet savour afforded by the reasonable life.


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