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Speculations Into The Origins Of Reason

(Where Free Will Finds Its Confirmation)







“I think, therefore I am."

Rene Descartes









The human mind is the great enigma it is, because of a single faculty it possesses: reason!

Reason, or that ability to think in the manner human beings do, is unlike anything else Nature has evolved. It exists only in humans, yet features some very startling attributes that neither science nor religion is capable of explaining. One of these attributes is its basis; and yet, at the same time, its undoing, in that it throws it right back into that same quagmire from which it was supposedly created to allow it to exit. The hitch is that it must always proceed from a given, a given which it cannot question, but always accept as such.

Reason allows the human to examine whatever he or she wants to, yet must always start with that thing it examines as a given, something taken for granted or assumed to be true. If it takes an ‘experience’, something the human sensory apparatus and the human perceptual apparatus supplies it with, as that given, then it is the stuff of science, for science lives within the necessities which the human perceptual system calls causality. And, in fact, it is this same causal chain which experience relies on. The phenomena of science are these ‘experiences’ that live in the human perception.

When I say “live in the human perception”, I mean they live within the framework that human perception gives them to be analyzable by the human reasoning apparatus. Thus these ‘experiences’ are intelligible to a human mind. The modalities of human intelligibility are the ‘dimensions’ within which the changes of the “world in itself” present themselves: the three dimensions of space; the dimension of time; and finally, the relational dimension called causality. This causality being probably the most important since it ties together all the rest in a relational framework of necessary connectedness. Although we have separated these dimensions through the other reasoning tool of the mind known as abstraction, they really are not separate at all, but are all connected and dependent upon each other.

Within the sequence of time, there is the necessary connection of there always being another succeeding moment, or a preceding one; also within space every location necessitates a location next to it in each of the dimensions of space. So, in essence, causality underlies the other modalities as an integral part of them. But what I am really trying to demonstrate here is the disquieting fact that reason can never seem to get to the real bottom of things, for that very reason I have pointed out: it always needs a basic assumption upon which all the rest relies – a first cause, so to speak!

Thus the real limit of reason becomes the same limit that the human mind cannot get around – the limit of human intelligibility itself!

The scholars of all ages seem to have understood this, in that they created a realm called metaphysics (literally, “beyond physics”) to deal with it. Through using abstraction, or limiting the attributes of things, new “things” can be created. Thus the modalities of perception were themselves abstracted out of the perceptual process, and then scrutinized with reasoning, to form conclusions about what seemed to be beyond the intelligibility boundary. But, these were really only hypotheses – guesses as to what caused the sensations, and the perceptions derived from them. One of these theories was Bishop Berkeley’s solipsistic “world in itself”, a theory which most today cannot refute, but again, the true cause of which is only speculation. Berkeley’s idea was a religious first cause – God!

Ah-hah, you say… a God! Well, at first, it may seem that religion has the situation “nailed down”, so to speak… but unfortunately, this premise, of a God, has a big, indeed, very big hole in it. That hole is the fact that that first cause, (the first assumption in the ability of reasoning itself) is not built into the system!

Now God would have to be a very bad architect indeed, if he forgot to lay down the very foundation upon which that very great edifice of reason relies – yet that is exactly what he seems to have done (remember, here, I am taking the position of a religious adherent)! Perhaps you have lost me, so let me explain a little more.

All of our reasoning, thinking, even our mathematical reasoning, needs to be based on a single (unreasoned, or assumed) foundation, or assumption, or set of assumptions, upon which it relies 1 . But what I am targeting is the wider scope of the “reasoning ability” itself, or the process which gave it its impetus to grow in the human mind. This would also include the human causal system, which is intricately involved in the thinking processes’ ability to handle change in the human dimensional metric 2 .

That hole, that religion cannot explain, is the fact that God, Himself, left the fact of His existence out! He had the opportunity to build Himself into the foundation of all reasoning, by fixing in our minds the premise (first cause or assumption) of Him – yet He didn’t do it – instead, He left a void there.

But, lets pause for a moment, and look at the other side (the scientific, agnostic or even atheistic side) of things. On this side, they really take the view that human perception, itself, is the first cause (even though most scientists don’t, or won’t, acknowledge this fact). They do this, by using observation, or experience (as I outlined above), as the unacknowledged premise upon which their inductive process begins. Experience 3 is supposedly, the first cause they build upon; but, really, that experience is based on the human perceptual process that perceives it. The “world in itself” that they study, can, in fact, never be known first hand, but only through the ‘secondhand’ perceptual process of the human perceiver. Hence, they are left in the quandary, is science really studying the ‘world’, or the human’s perceptual system? At the level of normal physical phenomena, say, at the level of Newtonian physics, they may be certain that they are studying the world, but quantum physics has shown some blurring, so that the philosopher’s “world in itself” again becomes significant, and the province of all of physical science has become somewhat anomalous as to its subject matter.

So even if we accept the premise science makes, that there is a real world on the other side of the perceiver, that world must be extracted from the human’s perceptions that present it, and the beginning or primary assumption is again the human perceptual apparatus in the perceiver.

The problem science cannot solve is just like the old “chicken and egg” problem: which came first? Causality offers the same thing: either something eternally existing that gave rise to everything, or a beginning that came from nothing. Either case sounds very much like a ‘God’ in the religious sense. But if we track the origin of all experience to its one and only true “first cause”, it is the perceiver, as Bishop Berkeley first annunciated in his solipsistic view of reality. But he hypothesized a God as the ‘cause’ of this perceptual illusion, we call life and science calls experience 4 . But why can we not call ourselves that God? In fact, the Vedic Tradition does just that directly, in its idea of the one in the many, and the many in the one. Even the Bible does the same, when the prophet Jeremiah tells us that God’s New Covenant has written the word of God in every heart (Jeremiah 31: 31); and the Apostle John makes it even more explicit in his statement that ”God is love; and he that abideth in love abideth in God, and God abideth in him”(1 John, 4, 16).

Since we perceive plurality (for instance: other things, called humans that exhibit wills), because we cannot explain causes and effects outside our own will, we postulate other entities, like ourselves, that have existence outside of ourselves. Thus even plurality is only a hypothesis, as far as its causation goes, because true existence can only occur within us.

Therefore, the freedom of our wills can be construed to be the basis upon which the process of reason acts. For it is the will, which chooses what will be the axioms upon which reason acts; without this choice, reason is worthless. So it is this freedom of choice, which is the primary axiom upon which the human mind functions in its thinking process. The human organism has magnified this, through giving itself a mind through which the versatility of abstraction and reason can focus on the freedom of choice the self presents to it, as its primary axioms.

Thus the mind has through reason decentralized itself from the ‘self’, and focused on probing the world through the reasoning abilities, using the free choice the self has given it as the basis of this deductive process.

So, all the “First Causes” of the mind originate from the experience the world gives us – in other words from perception, ordered by that free will the will expresses. But, it is the freedom of choice the will itself presents that picks the primary axioms which reason will use to deduce all further conclusions reached through the reasoning process. If we come to a point where we deduce something, which has no proceeding cause – in essence, a first cause, or the equivalent, a state, which exists eternally – then we have gone outside of human perception and the human reasoning process itself. This is what some call the mystical; others the religious; but both are in the realm of belief, not science, which relies on reason. In essence we have again reached the point where the free will intervenes, for at this point, it is up to the will to choose the course it will take in its beliefs.

For those who believe in a supreme being this may be the answer, why that God they believe in, left Himself out of the reasoning system. As I have said once before: “man is both God and beast; taming the beast is never easy, but anything is possible for a God.” Very simply: He wanted us to feel the very heavy responsibility necessary, to be a God!






FOOTNOTES

To return to note's origin click the footnote number at left




1 In fact, there is usually more than one of these ‘unreasoned’ facts (axioms), in mathematical and scientific reasoning; which also ‘assumes’ that they are compatible in the dimensional scheme (perhaps, calculational scheme, would be a better phrase) within which they exist. In mathematics, this would be called ‘consistency’.


2 I adopt the term “human dimensional metric” to define that facet of human intelligibility that incorporates the human way of defining its modalities of perception – time, space and causality, as Kant defined them.


3 Experience, here, includes the extension of the senses in instrumentation.


4 Science now hypothesizes a “singularity” as the beginning of the "world in itself"; see my essay "The Fallacy Of 'Big Bang' (Going Beyond What Is)".




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Originally Published:

August 3, 2012

Revised:

July 3, 2014