Comments on “Rejecting rationality, reinventing religion, reconfiguring the self”


Rationality is the opposite of science

Bad Horse's picture

You must be much more careful when speaking of rationality. When you say, “Then rationality came along and pointed out that meanings can’t be objective, there are no spooks, and you can’t derive ought from is,” you’re mixing critiques of rationality (meanings can’t be objective & can’t derive ought from is) with rationality. When you mention science, you’re promulgating the myth that rationality is scientific thought.

Rationalism is an ancient philosophical tradition. It is basically Classical Greek thought, e.g., geometry & Aristotelian logic. It is axiomatic and Boolean, and operates on atomic symbols which map directly to eternal concepts. It specifically denies the validity of empirical experiments. It operates only with integers. Its physics is based on static analysis. It denies the existence of infinities or infinitesimals, and so can never understand change–which it doesn’t really believe in, deep down, as it is a type of eternalism.

Scientific empirical thought was historically considered the opposite of rationalism. It says that we should look to the material world for understanding, that language is nominalist, that terms should not be defined but operationalized, and we can construct concepts as labels of statistical abstractions, that truth is statistical, that proper syntax does not guarantee meaning. It replaces Aristotelian logic and physics with real numbers, infinitesimals, differential equations, and probabilities.

The entire post-modern attack on reason is based on getting people to pretend that science never happened, that science is actually medieval metaphysics and our only choices are Aristotelianism or unreason.

You know sometimes words have two meanings

Bad, your comment makes some good points.

“The real meaning of word X is Y” is not a good way of arguing, however. “Rationalism” is used to mean different things in different contexts. You are right that historically rationality and empiricism were opposed as alternate epistemological standards. (I discussed this in “Probability theory does not extend logic,” in fact.)

However, in common contemporary usage, “rationality” is often—I’d say nearly always, even—taken to include empiricism.

I agree that the post-modern attack on reason is bad. However, I don’t recall anyone suggesting that “science is actually medieval metaphysics and our only choices are Aristotelianism or unreason.” I would be interested to read such a claim if you can point me at one?

Add new comment


This page is in the section Countercultures: modernity’s last gasp,
      which is in How meaning fell apart,
      which is in Meaningness and Time: past, present, future.

The next page in this section is The personal is political.

The previous page is Renegotiating self and society.

General explanation: Meaningness is a hypertext book. Start with an appetizer, or the table of contents. Its “metablog” includes additional essays that are not part of the book.

To hear about new content, Subscribe by email subscribe to my email newsletter, Follow Meaningness on Twitter follow me on Twitter, use the Syndicate content RSS feed, or see the list of recent pages.

Click on terms with dotted underlining to read a definition.

The book is a work in progress; pages marked ⚒︎ are under construction.