Friday, September 7, 2012

Life Goes Beyond Reason

We know that human beings are an arrangement of atoms - we have no solid evidence that human beings are anything more than that. In the realm of reason, you are correct if you say that we have no evidence indicating that there is a dimension to human beings that goes beyond physical particles and energy; you would be wrong if you said that it was a fact that human beings are just particles and energy, though. You would be wrong because it is impossible for us to ever know that that is the case, rather, what we know is that there is no evidence currently available that there is anything beyond particles and energy.

But reason, while an excellent thing, is an activity that we are capable of, not the whole of our lives. So after we reason we have to live. If you live as though humans are just matter and energy, then your life goes beyond the rules of a strict rationality. If you live as though humans are more than matter and energy, then your life goes beyond the rules of a strict rationality.

There is an asymmetry here. In the former case, all you do when you live is deny ignorance and mystery, you are living only according to what you can discover; in the latter case, you use ignorance as an excuse to become self-indulgent and live according to something that may be lovely or satisfying but which has no basis in the available evidence. For this reason, I do not endorse the second approach. Neither do I endorse the first, though, although it seems closer to what I would endorse.

I do not endorse the first because we know that there is ignorance and mystery. We know that there are limitations to what we know - possibly essential limitations, things that we may never know. To deny this is to deny what we actually see (we can still see the blind spot itself). To fill it in with whatever we like is to lie to ourselves - and who can lie to himself effectively since he would be aware of the lie?

But, then, how do we live according to mystery? How do we incorporate the fact of our ignorance into our lives? I do not know in full, but in part it consists of living as someone who knows he is living according to perception and not according to fact - always on the lookout for more perception.

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