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Blog-o-Brisbane » The Heart of Reason
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Blog-o-Brisbane

July 1, 2007

The Heart of Reason

Filed under: Scott's blogging, Reflections — Scott @ 12:20 pm

It continues to amaze me the ignorance of philosophers, ironically despite the coverage of philosophers, to the heart of the philosopher. Yet, where many philosophers may be ignorant, those who pride themselves on being scientific are entirely oblivious to their heart.

The philosopher, so the story goes, is able to distinguish possibilities from impossibilities using logic and reason, and as such deduce what must be true given accepted facts of reality. Science, so this story goes, is able to observe the world around us, and through rationality, deduce explanations and facts about the way our world works. But, to use a pun, at the heart of every explanation is the heart of the explainer.

With the rise of Modernity, the heart was relegated as a hindrance to any sort of rational enquiry. It was to be left aside for the heart is considered to be emotional, and as such a distortion to truth. Many philosophers and scientists believe they can strip their bias and emotions from their rational enquiry, but if this were so, then we would expect “anyone” who follows their reasoning to see the truth. “Ah-huh”, replies the rational one, “you do not understand my logic, for if you did, you would see what I say is true.” It is to such people who place themselves with their thought processes on a pedestal above that of everyone else, who completely miss their own heart. With such a person, one must not even enter into a discussion on any rational topic, for to do so one must be prepared to play their game - only their conclusions are right!

On the other hand, if we are to believe they are right then as William Wainwright asks, “explain why two equally intelligent and informed inquirers can arrive at such different assessments of the same evidence?” (Wainwright, Reason and the Heart, 3) Who are we to choose as right? Obviously there is an extra factor at play. And certainly when it comes to questions of God’s existence, all sides have a passion and invested interest in such questions which attempt to tackle the deepest questions of life and our purpose. Yet, there is no agreement amongst lay people, just as there is no agreement amongst philosophers who dedicate their lives to reasoning about such questions, just as there is no agreement amongst scientists who use logic to deduce how something observed is so and draw conclusions.

Thus, we come to an end. Reason appears to be no better at discovering truth than the heart which guides it. Whoever thinks otherwise has to believe that there is no one else who opposes their thinking who is their equal in knowledge and rational enquiry. With such a person, I believe the title of ignorance is merited. Yet, to those who realise the heart as being a deciding factor in why equally knowledgeable and intelligent people disagree, whether it be on matters of God’s existence or less controversial philosophical beliefs and scientific theories, then how are we to proceed? I see that there are two solution.

  1. The first is one that is adopted by many post-moderns, and that is, no one can be certain of truth.  And thus, all claims to truth should be disregarded. So to the small child who responds to their teacher that 2+2 is 5, the response comes back, “that is a valid response, but not the one I was looking for.” This response is the one I see pushed by education. As we can not be sure of truth, it is politically incorrect to ever claim we have truth. All truth claims should therefore be considered equal, as anything else is just ignorant to the beliefs of others. I see that this “post-modern” influence underpins much of education, and in my opinion, it makes a mockery out of the very foundations of education and what it means. If we are being educated with the opinions of others, regardless of their bearing on reality or truth, then I really do not much care to pay expensive institution fees to hear the mere opinions of others.
  2. Our heart is a beneficial component (whether purposefully designed, or evolved) which assists us in deciphering truth. The heart is not the be-all and end-all, yet when working correctly together, the heart and reason make excellent truth detectors.

Option 2 accounts for the wide divergence of opinions, while not giving into the absurdities of truths meaningless in option 1. What remains is deciphering what “the heart” consists of. Many attribute the heart to desires, emotions, passions yet I here encompass it to mean anything not necessarily based on observations and rational deduction. So the heart for me would include a mother’s intuition who feels unsettles in her stomach when a particular person nears her child. It would this include an illative sense, the act our drawing a conclusion on a particular matter based on experience rather than any real stateable reasoning. For example, the better qualified person to judge whether someone is lying (without any real facts or reasons) would be a person who by experience and long acquaintance with their subject have a right to judge. Is this not how hunches work with investigators? Such hunches then lead the investigator to the pain-staking task of gathering evidence. Yet, I would trust the hunch of an experienced investigator over that of a rookie. For his hunches have been more tried and developed. What this means is that when the heart is used to distinguish what is true, it can be more greatly aligned in one person than in that of another. And so, as John Henry Newman writes: “if we wish ourselves to share in their convictions and the grounds of them, we must follow their convictions and the grounds of them, we must follow their history, and learn as they have learned. We must take up their particular subject… give ourselves to it, depend on practice and experience more than on [formal or explicit] reasoning.”

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