Reason And Rationality Do Not Exclude Intuition or Creativity
REASON AND RATIONALITY COMPRISE MORE THAN JUST LOGIC...
Lately, I've noticed several posts by proponents of what I would call "Emotionalism" ― the view that Reason and Rationality are unduly confining intellectually and prevent the attainment of metaphysical understanding, as well as artistic, ethical, and social insight.
For example, I just read a well-expressed piece whose thesis is that rationality seriously limits creativity.
Prior to reading that post, I read one that focused on the "tyranny of Reason."
The dialectic between "Reason" and "Emotion", between "Rationality" and "Faith", and between "Logic" and "Intuition" has been pursued and argued for centuries. Consequently, I don't harbor the illusion that I can personally resolve the conflict in a few short paragraphs here. Or that it will ever be resolved. For surely, everyone is entitled to his or her opinion, when it comes to these matters.
Nevertheless, I would like to suggest to you that most, if not all of the claims concerning the inferiority of Reason to Emotion are based on a fundamental misunderstanding of what comprises Rationality and Reason, as well as a wrong-headedness concerning the nature of "intuition" and "intuitive" thought.
The central dichotomy is not between Reason and Intuition, nor between Rationality and Creativity, but between Reason and Faith...
Reason seeks to understand and to guide action by considering evidence (including that of perception the senses), by weighing arguments and theories against known or accepted facts, and by considering "logical" premises, assumptions, connections, implications, and supported conclusions. However, this just barely scratches the surface.
Logic itself is not limited to formal syllogistic reasoning, or to only two-value propositional calculus (the binary basis of computer languages to date). It encompasses both formal and informal modes of reasoning, including some, such as induction and eduction, which involve significant input from the sphere of intuition.
Intuition is not, I submit, a variant of Vulcan mind-melding with some underlying and unifying force of the Universe. Indeed, "intuition" is not irrational or even non-rational, but is akin to the "background processing" that computers do ― namely, the assimilation and analysis of data and information, both intellectual and perceptual, away from the interference of the "conscious" mind.
Faith, in contrast, is by definition irrational, for it involves believing something independent of ― indeed, often in spite of ― evidence and rational argument.
The fundamental difference between Reason and Faith was, perhaps, best delineated by philosopher Søren Kierkegaard who spoke of the "Leap of Faith" that must be taken in the matter of the existence of a God. And who recognized that no amount of rational discussion or analysis would get one to accepting that particular belief.
But Faith is not just a matter of believing in God. Faith is evident in all manner of belief and tenet, which some embrace in the face of all evidence and common sense to the contrary.
Faith involves believing, for instance, that the course of one's life is completely in one's own hands. That if you just stay optimistic, you will attain all that you seek in life. That whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger and more able to deal with that which the future brings.
Which is clearly why some people find Faith so attractive ― although I suspect that first-person expressions of Faith also trigger the release of serotonin and endorphins into the True Believer's bloodstream.
I have no problem distinguishing between Reason and Faith... I reiterate, however, that I reject the claim that Reason and Rationality are necessarily separated from Intuition and Creativity.
The proponents of Emotionalism are fond of quoting Einstein, particularly using memes such as the one shown above. However, if Einstein actually wrote or said that, it nevertheless does not follow that it means what Emotionalists want it to mean.
In such writings, Einstein did not reject Rationality, but rather saw that some forms of logic did not capture the full range of Reason, and therefore, needed at times to be abandoned in favor of more free-ranging (creative) forms of thought.
Some Emotionalists want to tell us that we have many more senses available to us than the commonly accepted five human senses of sight, touch, smell, hearing, and taste. If only we throw off the limiting bonds of Rationality.
Again, this claim is a distortion driven by an a priori assumption or, in the alternative, an already-embraced agenda.
First, it is not clear whether the so-called "additional" senses are, indeed, separate senses or just heightened and refined versions and/or combinations of our commonly-identified senses.
For example, snow looks like snow to me. But it is said that the aboriginal peoples of the far North, the Inuit, can distinguish between dozens of different types of snow, each having its own cluster or properties. Exactly how many, and whether the types of snow that exist in the real world are the same in number as the different words that exist in the Intuit language, are in dispute, but it is generally agreed that the types of snow exceed a dozen.
Does this mean that the Inuit have a special "snow sense"? Hardly. Because of the demands of their lives, they have refined their perception to be able to recognize, among other things, snow they can walk on, snow they can use to build shelter, and snow that they may fall through and possibly be engulfed in.
In order to refine their senses to that level, do they have to abandon Reason? Hardly. They have only to open their minds to the possibilities of attending closely to complex perceptions built by the same senses we all have.
Some people claim to be Empaths, those who feeI directly the emotions and sensory stimuli that others feel. Me, I am what I call an "Apath" ― someone who is so doltish when it comes to emotions, I have to ask my wife, "How am I feeling today?"
Yet, as an experienced sailor, I can pick out the precise direction from which the wind is blowing at any given point in time. I can predict wind shifts. And I can "sense" bad weather approaching from many miles and hours away.
Is that an ability attained by abandoning Reason and Rationality? Again, hardly.
It is a skill developed over many years of storing and background processing the information of my senses. The feel of the wind on the back of my ears and in my hair (what is left of it, that is). the subtly changing motions, directions, and rhythms of wavelets at the sea's surface. The waxing and waning of pain in my arthritic left shoulder (injured playing ball in high school).
Could I block or interfere with those heightened perceptions by "overthinking" the process of discerning them? Yes.
Could I fail to attain the skill by insisting on analyzing those perceptions consciously and deliberately, rather than giving my mind free reign to process and learn in the "background"? Most certainly.
But, does opening my mind and body, my brain and greater nervous system to all the available data mean that I am abandoning Rationality in favor of Intuition and Creativity? Not on your life!
My ability to read the wind, predict wind shifts, and anticipate bad weather can be seen, I believe, as intuitive. For it is the result of learning to process a huge amount of data outside the limited confines of the conscious mind. Such, however, is not, I submit, outside the limits of rationality.
As to Rationality stifling Creativity, that is pure poppycock. Some of the most creative people I've known have also been mathematicians, scientists, and engineers, fully steeped in systematic Reason.
They just have the ability to allow their minds to range free, so that they may discern the forest for the trees.
That, however, is another argument for another day. Let it suffice at this point in the conversation simply to reiterate that what is mistaken for an opposition between Reason and Intuition, between Rationality and Creativity, is actually the dichotomy between the way of Reason and the way of Faith.
I personally choose the way of Reason. And you, of course, are free to choose as you please. Just don't try to tell me that, in order to be Intuitive or Creative, I have to forsake Reason and Rationality. ― Phil Friedman
Postscript: It is inevitable that some people will take offense at this post, each such person thinking that it is specifically aimed at him or her and seeing it as unduly argumentative. However, I assure you it is not, and I suggest that, if you are moved to take it that way, well ... you might just ask yourself why that is the case. For if the shoe doesn't fit, why in the world would anyone insist on wearing it?
Feel free to disagree in the comments section, but please do not take up space and the readers' time with picayune ad hominem diatribes or dogmatic professions about how you disagree because what you say is true because you say it. The last time I looked, the world was pretty bereft of certified Prophets. — PLF
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About me, Phil Friedman: With 30 some years background in the marine industry, I've worn numerous hats — as a yacht designer, boat builder, marine operations and business manager, marine industry consultant, marine marketing and communications specialist, yachting magazine writer and editor, yacht surveyor, and marine industry educator. I am also trained and experienced in interest-based negotiation and mediation.
In a previous life, I was formally trained as an academic philosopher and taught logic and philosophy at university.
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