Monday, June 08, 2015

reason & trust

Can a belief be subjunctively rational? (Such a belief would be found to be rational were we fully to investigate it.) If it can't be, the only rational people would be utterly pathological, incapable of the smallest act without decades of research. If it can, rationality becomes primarily a question of appropriate trust; the mark of the rational is the existence of well-placed faith in others. But even if our trust is well-placed, is it more rational to hold a rational belief for irrational reasons or to trust the rationality of another who may turn out to have made serious errors? The latter seems more of a basis for community, but in life-or-death situations facts care nothing for their derivation.

1 comment:

Dominic Lash said...

Nietzsche - of course - takes a contrary and provocative view, in section 4 of Beyond Good and Evil (the section that gives the book its title). As translated by R.J. Hollingdale:
"The falseness of a judgement is to us not necessarily an objection to a judgement: it is here that our new language perhaps sounds strangest. The question is to what extent it is life-advancing, life-preserving, species-preserving, perhaps even species-breeding; and our fundamental tendency is to assert that the falsest judgements (to which synthetic judgements a priori belong) are the most indispensible to us, that without granting as true the fictions of logic, without measuring reality against the purely invented world of the unconditional and self-identical, without a continual falsification of the world by means of numbers, mankind could not live - that to renounce false judgements would be to renounce life, would be to deny life. To recognize untruth as a condition of life: that, to be sure, means to resist customary value-sentiments in a dangerous fashion; and a philosophy which ventures to do so places itself, by that act alone, beyond good and evil."
There are two axes here, which we could express as truth vs reason and truth vs life. Which gives us the compounds "true, rational, life-affirming", "true, irrational, life-affirming", "true, rational, life-denying", "true, irrational, life-denying" - and the same again with "false" substituted for true. I do not see how we can rule out the possibility of any of these eight compounds. But that is not the same as concluding that they are equally weighted.