The Revolt Against Reason
The odd thing about the modern Analysts, Linguists and Positivists schools of philosophy pointing fingers at the Phenomenologists, Existentialists and Thomists, each accusing the other of quasi-philosophizing, is that, by way of analogy, they are like the Fascists and Marxists of the last century both claiming victory in the world of ideas when in fact, coercion, the last resort of brutes, was all they ever had and their most commonly shared value, see Hitler and Stalin and Liberal Fascism. What Philosophical Analysism shared with Continental Philosophy on the other hand is their revolt against reason. We live in The Age of the Irrational, this era was given birth in academic philosophy. They took a beautiful shining ancient city and burned it nearly to the ground, and they did it for no other reason than that platonic supernaturalism (i.e., Catholicism, Marxism, Rule Utilitarianism, Egalitarianism, Existentialism, Hegelism and other philosophies), would survive into the next millennium; that faith would be saved from the onslaught of reason and science.
As a student in a philosophy class, arguing in defense of Aristotle's classic, Either/Or, (doing so at a ground level of human-perception – that middle place that we occupy – or life on earth in the human mammal), there was this reaction: the professor frustrated with my "naive grandiose arguments" jumped to the chalkboard and began scribbling Russellian mathematical formulas which apparently refuted induction - who knows - no one understood it. When this Linguistic Analyst professor was done, he quite furiously said: "Can we get on with it?"
Not surprising to me, he was also an avid neo-Marxist at the time, although he's since become a social-democrat after the fall of the wall, but the point is, he used the Analysts' revolt against reason to liberate himself of any individual moral obligation to peoples' freedom, liberty and economic/intellectual independence, so that he was open to believe in what he wanted, in this case, the fairytale religion of Marxism. Any one who has read Stephen Kotkin knows that Stalin was not a "dictator gone wild" but a religious fundamentalist not unlike Lenin, Trotsky, Bukharin and all the original Bolsheviks as well as the Mensheviks who so foolishly assisted the consolidation of political power before they were all annihilated by it.
A sense came over you when you heard those professors talk (or read their books or dissertations), I mean the Analysts and Positivists, they loved Plato and were nonplused by academic inertia. Lack of progress was understandable given that few people can see the hidden reality. Luckily for us, they were in the know. They were the elitist-philosopher-kings. "People are stupid!" If you heard one of them say something like, "Aristotle's logic has been utterly refuted," you knew that they were pushing some wacky idea that would suck the very heart out of you by proving reason is unreliable, unfounded, overstated, useless and/or downright absurd. It isn’t coincidence that many philosophers who believed man couldn’t see the really-real, believed in god, large modern hand-maiden governments or even in the total state.
Reason makes it clear: the idea that the really-real produces a huge grab-bag of ideas in which none are connected intelligibly, is absurd, (paraphrased from Brand Blanshard). The philosophers are simply wrong about reason. Their motives for the attack on it are highly questionable. Matter, time and space in the micro and macro worlds disappear as we know it in the Aristotelean sense, there are not even "things," but only bundles of qualities (events). Everything is constantly changing-there's permanency only in the whole event. But why deduction, reduction, induction, logic, identity, science, mathematics, language, and in a word, reason, work is that evolution and other changes move slowly enough to identify and build enterprises on, including the most important one, ourselves.
Henri Bergson, Alfred North Whitehead and other supernaturalists exaggerate the gulf between the knower and known. They want to distance themselves from the objective world we can see with reason and science with the hidden platonic world of the superduper magical one. No occult order, whether Whitehead's wonderland, a sort of Thomistic-Aristotelean-Platonic prime-mover metaphysical creator or Bergson's passionate creative Catholic type of, 'let's do spliff' transcendental energy, Elan Vital, is needed to express this fact: life is in constant process, perceived in a steady succession of conscious states often directly connected to the really-real, which is also in an evolving organic state of which we are apart. See also, Platonic Apologetics.
Aristotle was raised a sort of a Catholic adopting the mathematics and universals of his master, Plato. As he grew he expunged his supernatural platonics, and gradually, through an organic process, became a sort of Protestant more likely to embrace empiricism and biology. Two things are essential to understand in his regard. The master never lost his influence on the student, and the supernatural was never fully rejected, but he worked his way through his long life to the objective viewpoint, general knowledge of the world and morality based on reason. That's a good head start that academic philosophy has wasted for centuries.
We can get from inside to the outside with focused choices; we can make an attempt at objectivity in logical, sometimes quick, order. We don’t need intuition to have immediacy or direct apprehension of reality. How we get from inside to outside while avoiding total subjectivity, egocentricity, solipsism and other pitfalls is explained in my many articles. Primarily it is a focused awareness of the facts, looking at them in a sedate even-handed manner, and allowing the evidence to logically fall into place before drawing conclusions. It's judicial. However, facts as well as being empirical things are also stubborn: no matter how strong our subjective slants may be, facts cannot be dismissed. So a desire to be objective must be a sincere willingness to be refuted and corrected. Eat Crow, it is a mental health food.
Reason is the judge which uses all the tools at its disposal and whatever is evidentiary. Objectivity is a worthwhile (even if unattainable), philosophic goal. Reason draws through to inescapable conclusions. Tentative truth is more than possible and how we've come this great distance - even if it has been torturously slow.
Reason, it is true, can sometimes seem all of the awful things its enemies claim: doubtful, plodding, cold, preposterous and unromantic. The worst sort of partner in perception. Compare it though to its competitors: The devout mystic duped by faith; the drunk driver speeding down a dark road; the `killer' instinct as the blind teenage reckoning of reality as a `Will to Power'; intuition as what is judged to be true without any verification; wishful thinking as what we need to be true despite all the evidence to the contrary; and raw emoting, which is the ultimate chauvinism of the irrational.
Reason when equated against the other means of comprehension looks pretty damn competent and should have all of our consideration.
* Winston Churchill: "In the course of my life I have often had to eat my words, and I must confess that I have always found it a wholesome diet."
© 2023 - E. A. St. Amant