Posts Tagged ‘rationalism’

There can be nothing so absurd, but may be found in the books of philosophers

September 16, 2009

For it is most true that Cicero saith of them somewhere; that there can be nothing so absurd, but may be found in the books of philosophers.

Thomas Hobbes

This is what Hobbes calls in man:

…the privilege of absurdity, to which no living creature is subject, but men only. And of men, those are of all most subject to it that profess philosophy.

Leviathan, ch. 5

Claiming to be wise, they became fools… Romans. 1.22

Nietzsche’s Perspectivalism

September 15, 2009

From now on, my philosophical gentlemen, let us protect ourselves better from the dangerous old conceptual fantasy which posits a “pure, will-less, painless, timeless subject of cognition”; let’s guard ourselves against the tentacles of such contradictory ideas as “pure reason,” “absolute spirituality,” “knowledge in itself”—those things which demand that we think of an eye which simply cannot be imagined, an eye which is to have no direction at all, in which the active and interpretative forces are supposed to stop or be absent—the very things through which seeing first becomes seeing something. Hence, these things always demand from the eye something conceptually absurd and incomprehensible. The only seeing we have is seeing from a perspective; the only knowledge we have is knowledge from a perspective; and the more emotions we allow to be expressed  in words concerning something, the more eyes, different eyes, we know how to train on the same thing, the more complete our “idea” of this thing, our “objectivity,” will be. But to eliminate the will in general, to suspend all our emotions without exception—even if we were capable of that—what would that be? Wouldn’t we call that castrating the intellect?

Nietzsche, Genealogy of Morals, Third Essay, 12

This statement is the death blow to the Enlightenment and the door to relativism. Only the Christian worldview can avoid the pitfalls of both these errors. On the one hand it gives The Perspective (God’s) any and all humans lack, providing certain, absolute truth. On the other hand, this revelation is limited and requires the kind of humility Enlightenment man is incapable of, to receive it.

Nietzsche is right at least this far, man is not a pure reasoning machine as if he had no emtions or pre-commitments looking at any subject.

why has he such a passionate love for destruction and chaos also?

September 7, 2009

…tell me, who was it first announced, who was it first proclaimed, that man only does nasty things because he does not know his own interests; and that if he were enlightened, if his eyes were opened to his real normal interests, man would at once cease to do nasty things, would at once become good and noble because, being enlightened and understanding his real advantage, he would see his own advantage in the good and nothing else, and we all know that not one man can, consciously, act against his own interests, consequently, so to say, through necessity, he would begin doing good? Oh, the babe! Oh, the pure, innocent child! Why, in the first place, when in all these thousands of years has there been a time when man has acted only from his own interest? What is to be done with the millions of facts that bear witness that men, CONSCIOUSLY, that is fully understanding their real interests, have left them in the background and have rushed headlong on another path, to meet peril and danger, compelled to this course by nobody and by nothing, but, as it were, simply disliking the beaten track, and have obstinately, wilfully, struck out another difficult, absurd way, seeking it almost in the darkness.

Dostoevsky, Notes from the Underground, Part 1, VII

Man likes to make roads and to create, that is a fact beyond dispute. But why has he such a passionate love for destruction and chaos also? Tell me that.


The Irrational Within

September 7, 2009

I, for instance, would not be in the least surprised if all of a sudden, a propos of nothing, in the midst of general prosperity a gentleman with an ignoble, or rather with a reactionary and ironical, countenance were to arise and, putting his arms akimbo, say to us all: ‘I say, gentleman, hadn’t we better kick over the whole show and scatter rationalism to the winds, simply to send these logarithms to the devil, and to enable us to live once more at our own sweet foolish will!’ That again would not matter, but what is annoying is that he would be sure to find followers – such is the nature of man. And all that for the most foolish reason, which, one would think, was hardly worth mentioning: that is, that man everywhere and at all times, whoever he may be, has preferred to act as he chose and not in the least as his reason and advantage dictated.

Dostoevsky, Notes from Underground, Part 1, Chapter VII

This would seem almost to be a prophesy of Hitler and/or Stalin

men are bundles of passions and instincts

September 1, 2009

If men were rational…intelligence would be enough to make the world almost a paradise. but men are bundles of passions and instincts. it is of the greatest importance to inquire whether any method of strengthening kindly impulses exists….Men’s collective passions are mainly evil; far the strongest of them are hatred and rivalry directed towards other groups.

Bertrand Russell, in Ray Monk, vol.2, p.29

Reason as final authority

August 25, 2009
Shake off all the fears of servile prejudices, under which weak minds are serviley crouched. Fix reason firmly in her seat, and call on her tribunal for every fact, every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of a God, because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason than that of blind faith.

Thomas Jefferson

But reason is corrupted by sin and must be led, not discarded, by faith.

Correlation does not imply causation

July 30, 2009

…correlation does not show causation. A serious example of this common misunderstanding occurred in Italy. In the early 1980s, there were unexplained deaths where high mortality correlated with consumption of olive oil. The government leapt to the conclusion that the oil was poisonous. Later research showed it was tomatoes contaminated by pesticides that casued the deaths…

Nigel C. Benson, Introducing Psychology, Icon Books, 1999, p.16

Faith and Reason

October 9, 2008

Anselm (similarly Bernard, Origen, Augustine) said, credo ut intelligam. That is, I believe that I might understand. This means that faith precedes reason; faith is not subject to reason. This is the Christian position


But in the Middle Ages, Abelard reversed this by saying: non credendum, nisi prius intellectum (Intro, ii. 3). Which we might translate, ‘I don’t believe anything unless I have previously understood it’. This opened the door to rationalism which subjects faith to itself. Faith believes what God has said and seeks to know what is believed. Hence Augustine spoke of faith seeking understanding.


As an BASIL W. MILLER puts it:


…Abelard thought that first the truth of Christianity appealed to the reason, and then was a matter of credence. With him intellectual comprehension was necessary for belief. His dictum was “Non credendum, nisi prius intellectum,” or in plain language, “Do not believe unless you first know.” While with Anselm it was “credo ut intelligame,” or “Believe that you may know.” In his Introduction to Theology, from which the above quotation is taken (ii, 3), he tried to solve anew the doctrine of the Trinity but the Council of Soissons in 1121 ordered his work burned. Though not an infidel, still many of his doctrines were unsound. He is the medieval father of present day liberalism and new theology.