[lit-ideas] On "thinking rationally" (was gripes)

  • From: Michael Chase <goya@xxxxxxx>
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Mon, 23 Aug 2004 09:15:35 -0700

Le 21 ao=FBt 04, =E0 12:24, Erin Holder a =E9crit :

>>> Philosophy is about thinking
>>> rationally --
> Uh oh.  I'm in trouble.

M.C. You'd be in trouble only if the statement =93=A0Philosophy is about=20=

thinking rationally =94 were true. But it's not, or at least not without=20=


        If we were really doing phillosophy here, we should start with a=20=

definition : what's rational thinking? There are in fact many possible=20=

answers, but Analytical philosophy - that is, philosophy as it's been=20
done in Anglo-Saxon countries, pretty well exclusively, since the early=20=

1900's - assumes everybody knows that already.

        What *is* true is that "*anaytic* philosophy is about what *it=20=

considers* as rational thought". But it could be wrong, and there are=20
other philosophical tendencies that don't cotton to this hegemony of=20
the "rational".

        Let's take standard formal logic, f'rinstance. Paradigmatically=20=

rational, of course, and the basis of any possible philosophy, right?=20
Well, not really. Continental philosophy tends to reject it, on the=20
grounds of its =93=A0fundamental defects...the dominance of proposition,=20=

the separation between language and reality, language and=20
thought....the dominance of the principles of identity and=20
non-contradiction (Franca D'Agostini, =93=A0=46rom a Continental point =
view=A0: the role of logic in the Analytic-Continental divide=A0=94,=20
International Journal of Philosophical Studies, 9.3 (2001), 349-367).

        "=A0...as long as science is associated with reason, and reason =
rationality is equivalent to logical analysis, it will be analytic=20
style which gives the imprimatur to proper philosophical=20
approaches...Analytic talk remains the dominant strategy of legitimacy=20=

and distinction in the demand for clarity and coherence. And it is=20
fundamentally flawed not just for the tastes of those who are not=20
convinced of the salutary or edifying values of clarity and coherence=20
but according to its own rationalistic terms as well. For there is no=20
obvious connection between deductive (or inductive or abductive) logic=20=

(or grammar or language) and ther world. Assuming...such an elemental=20
or obvious connection as axiomatic or given, the analyst ends up so=20
preoccupied with refining his or her logical tools, that he or she=20
forgets having renonced contact with the world=A0" (Babette E. Babich,=20=

=93=A0On the =91=A0Analytic-Continental=A0=92 divide in philosophy. =
Nietzsche and=20
Heidegger on truth, lies, and language=A0=94,=20

        Nor does one have to be a beret-wearing, baguette-toting,=20
Gaulois-snorting Continental philosopher to suspect that standard logic=20=

and the analytic philosophy based upon it might not be the only game in=20=

town. In The Way we Think: conceptual blending and the mind's hidden=20
complexities (New York=A0/basic Books, 2002), Mark Turner and Gilles=20
Fauconnier argue that the emphasis on Reason in work in the humanities=20=

over the past few centuries has led to an over-emphasis on form to the=20=

detriment of content. The obvious and analysable processes of reason,=20
of which standard logic is a model, are merely the most apparent=20
end-results of more fundamental processes=A0: =93=A0Identity, =
and imagination - basic, mysterious, powerful, complex, and mostly=20
unconscious opertaions - are at the heart of even the simplest possible=20=

meanings. The value of the simplest forms lies in the complex emergent=20=

dynamics they trigger in the imaginative mind...

=93...What analtyic philosophers gloated over now was the complete=20
exclusion of figurative thought from =93=A0core meaning=A0=94. Core =
meaning is,=20
as the formally minded philosopher sees it, the part of meaning that=20
can be characterized formally and truth-conditionally. Therefore, goes=20=

the logic, it must be the only important and fundamental part of=20
meaning. Inevitably, these analtyic approaches were blind to the=20
imaginative operations of meaning construction that work at lightning=20
speed, below the horizon of consciousness, and leave few formal traces=20=

of their complex dynamics".

        Finally, that bastion of analytic ethical thought, the =
between "statements of fact" and "statements of value", has recently=20
come under withering attack from no less a (formerly) analytic thinker=20=

than Hilary Putnam : see The Collapse of the Fact/Value dichotomy and=20
other essays, Harvard=A0; HUP, 2002, where, based in part on the =
of Nobel-winning economist Amartya Sen, Putnam argues that fact and=20
value are inevitably entangled in all our thoughts and statements. The=20=

result is that analytic philosophy's beloved ideal of Objectivity comes=20=

crumbling down into pieces.

        I could go on, but the patience of the few brave souls who have =
this far is probably already exhausted. The moral is=A0: take courage,=20=

Erin. The hegemonic conception of "Reason" that has made you and so=20
many other students suffer for generations, is just a cultural fad, and=20=

it may well be on its way out.

        Best, Mike

> Erin
> Toronto
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Michael Chase
7, rue Guy Moquet
Villejuif 94801

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