How does one divide the true from the untrue? In his chapter titled "What Is Truth?,"26
Will Durant considers the competing arguments from many of the greatest
philosophers of all time, and divides them into three basic groups,
which Ayn Rand would most likely have labeled the supremacy of the
senses, the supremacy of reason, and the supremacy of instinct.27
Both Durant and Rand choose the supremacy of reason as the proper
irreducible primary value for Epistemology. It is obvious that the
senses may be fooled by any number of known "tricks," and it is thus
only reason which may master the senses and decide which sensations are
manifestations of reality and which are illusion. And it seems almost
childishly obvious that "instinct" is in no way a great sifter of truth
from untruth. Remember, "intuition" is a form of reasoning, usually
with inadequate information, but it is reasoning nonetheless, not
instinct. Instinct is an almost chemical reaction; a virus in your body
instinctively seeks out the sorts of cells which it specifically needs
to infect in order to grow or reproduce. Only through extremely
tortured reasoning can instinct be used to sort a truth from an untruth.
So, it is obvious that we must allocate supremacy to reason, to process information from our senses and control our instincts, in order to eventually discern "What Is Truth?"
journey does not end with deciding how it is that we know what truth
is. We must return to Metaphysics to reason out Ayn Rand's dichotomy
between existence and consciousness, or Will Durant's alternative, a
synthesis between the two, the latter of which is essentially at the
core of what I have proposed, above.
It is at this flash point of Metaphysics that the philosophical word games inundate our thoughts. Those who would assert the primacy of the outer reality must, in turn, deny the existence of the inner one, and vice versa. Put in those terms, the argument seems absurd, and thus the synthesis is virtually mandated (which is the conclusion of Durant). Why? Because we cannot deny the existence of our own consciousness. So, if existence is made the irreducible primary of Metaphysics, one of the elements which must admittedly exist is our consciousness.
So, what is the place of consciousness in our philosophy? Clearly, it is the "agent of self determination" envisioned by existentialism, but this concept cannot be taken to its conclusion because existentialism allows each individual to derive their own "truth," and likely as not, suffer the consequences of choosing an erroneous truth. Such animal behavior belongs with the "Law of the Jungle." Existentialism is the enemy of rationalism, and we have elected rationalism as our Epistemology.
In fact, if we associate these philosophical "buzz-words" with their irreducible primaries, the discussion becomes far more intelligible. Rationalism means choosing the supremacy of reason as the irreducible primary of Epistemology. Likewise, empiricism means choosing the supremacy of the senses. Thus, existentialism must be associated with choosing the supremacy of instinct (or, in a way, animalism). And this does make some sort of wild sense, because our consciousness can clearly be seen (albeit wrongly, I believe) as an advanced form of instinct; it appears unbidden in our minds, simply because we are Homo Sapiens.
So, while we have assigned supremacy to reason, it is also true that reason cannot ignore the senses; it uses them in a rational fashion to provide input to its analytical engine, sorting the sensory inputs which make sense from those which do not. This tells us what to do with consciousness in the overall scheme of things: the inward search of our instinctive consciousness should provide inputs to the analytical engine of our reason. We should neither ignore our consciousness, nor should we give it values which it can never possess.
Our consciousness is our principal source of inspiration. It provides power to our sense of motivation. And the analytical engine of our mind is constantly turning; what our consciousness does also is to provide a "back door," by way of our sub-conscious, by which we may remove results from the analytical engine of our mind with virtually no conscious effort at all.
But to close, just as our senses must yield to our reasoning facilities, so must our consciousness. We must not allow ourselves to be inspired to do things which are so irrational that we would terminate our very existence if we were to follow through. Our consciousness is our "inner sense" of self, and as for any of the senses, this is just one source of input into the analytical engine of our mind, which must remain supreme over all. If our reason loses control, then insanity is the result. But we must also not forget our consciousness; we must feed it motivations in the form of happiness. Obviously, the pure analytical engine of our intellect cannot function in a vacuum of unconsciousness. So, no matter what use we put our reason to, we must not forget the feeding of either our body or our "Soul."
gone through the above analysis "straight," I have ignored as
distractions a number of significant implications of my reasoning
process. It is these implications which give pause to the uninitiated
because so many of our most basic values, which were taught to us from
our earliest days as a child, are called into question.
The most important of the implications with which we must deal is the concept of "Faith." A belief which is not based upon proof is taken on "faith." A more formal way of saying this same thing is that "faith" is a truth which is not based on "reason." Thus, the most difficult barrier to the acceptance of the supremacy of reason is the fact that this concept of rationalism excludes the concept of "Faith." It is this exclusion which causes philosophers such as Will Durant to see Religion as the Great Enemy of Philosophy, and those such as Ayn Rand to deny that Religion has any place at all in discussions of Philosophy.
But even though a philosophy based upon the supremacy of reason will always exclude truths which must be taken on faith, it does not necessarily follow that this same philosophy must also exclude all concepts of religion. It only excludes those religions for which faith is a requirement; which unfortunately excludes virtually all of the organized religions operating in our world today.28
As I have noted elsewhere, Western Civilization is closely associated with the Roman Catholic Church, and it is this church and its progeny which are the primary enemies of philosophical rationalism. The essential teaching of these churches is a threat; you MUST have "faith" in Jesus Christ, OR ELSE! The usual "or else" is an eternally damned soul. However, if the Christians perceive you as an active threat, they can be counted on to create a more immediate "or else." It is this basic philosophical dichotomy which causes Philosophy to be mostly not taught in our schools, and when it is taught, not taught clearly; the teachers dare not teach clearly, for their objective is to drive students away from Philosophy in order to protect Christ. In leaving you ignorant of Philosophy, they impose upon you the shackles of whatever beliefs with which you were raised.
St. Augustine supposedly converted to Christianity because it "succeeded in showing people how to live where unaided philosophical reflection failed."29 I refuse to accept an assertion that "unaided philosophical reflection" cannot produce a work which will "show people how to live." In essence, that is a denial of the ability of philosophy to produce a sufficient statement of Ethics. However, it is clear that the Ethics cannot be only sterile truths; they must include at least some positive motivations for rightly performing our daily conduct as well as the necessary principles to use at cusp points for the purposes of making the "correct" choices.
The end result of this dichotomy between Christian Ethics and Philosophical Ethics is that, as the church has lost favor with the populace in these later years of Western Civilization, we raise our young with no philosophy at all; not the philosophy of reason and not the philosophy of faith. This has converted the least able of our population back into mere animals, with no Philosophy with which to steer their minds in the direction of some acceptable form of Ethics.
You see, the point of all that has gone on in this Section up until now is to lay the groundwork for the derivation of Ethics. If you choose the philosophy of Christ, at least you choose, at that same moment, the Ethics espoused by Christ.30 If you choose nothing at all, because you do not study Philosophy, or for any other reason, then you are left with the ethical values of the jungle (i.e., the Law of the Jungle). It is only if you willingly choose some philosophy of your own that you get to derive an Ethics which makes sense, and it is now time for that here.
26 The Mansions of Philosophy, 1929, Chapter II, beginning on page 25.
27 She did use "supremacy of reason" as the catch-phrase to define her own epistemology.
28 As noted elsewhere, the principal exception is the Unitarian Universalist Church.
29 "The Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy" (1996), by Simon Blackburn.
30 It is entirely outside of the scope of this work for me to point out the many fallacies of the ethics of Jesus Christ. However, the most obvious is that the concept of absolution from sin can be used by the evil minded to justify the commission of any abomination on the ground that, once they have received communion, they are "absolved" from the ethical consequences of their sins. It is exactly an ethical logic such as this which led that former Christian minister to murder the abortion doctor and his guard down in Florida. He claimed that he was ethically justified in his commission of murder.
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