Monthly Archives: November 2019

Reason Persuades; Cannot Force Thought

My previous post established that reason is not a moral authority. That result does not denigrate reason but only leads to getting a clearer concept of reason. Reason is just too diffuse to be an authority about anything. But that does not mean that reason fails to be our only access to what is true and what ought to be.

I propose that we think of reason as human consciousness, thinking broadly construed, to avoid the impossible task of trying to construct a concept of how what we sense is connected with what we think. In fact, there is no separation. It is only for philosophical purposes that a separation was made. It is true that we can sometimes think through a problem better if we shut our eyes while holding our hands over our ears. But that helps because the thoughts or conscious states- making up what we see and hear readily distract us from what we want to think about. However, once I have made this proposal to think of reason broadly as human consciousness to set aside an insolvable philosophical puzzle, I will write of reason as I did in the previous post. That was the way we talk and write of reason in ordinary language.

Thinking or reasoning is the only way humans can find out and communicate what is the case, why things happen, how things function, what ought to be, etc.,. Over a period of at least several thousand years humans have developed fairly reliable ways to find out, manipulate and explain what is the case. I think current scientific method including mathematics is the most reliable ways of thinking about what is the case. I am not claiming that scientific method is a subclass of reasoning that is an authority on what is the case. It does not increase the force of a scientific demonstration to say “Reason tells us this is the right result.” Citing reason as an authority is irrelevant. The scientific experiment shows, with probability what is the case. Chatter about the rationality of scientific method is just propaganda to persuade those who cannot follow the reasoning.

There has not been agreement on a method of finding out what ought to be. I propose there is no agreement on a method for moral thinking because almost all of us have the notion of moral harm as fundamental in our thinking about what ought to be. As I have shown in several past posts, the notion of moral harm leads to the notion of a moral authority. Now many people cannot, or will not, accept the notion of a moral authority because amongst other things it requires acceptance of at least some type of semi-divine being. Many others for various reasons find the notion of moral harm morally repugnant. They cannot, or will not, accept that there is harm that ought to be.

Because of this deep disagreement about moral harm, our reasoning with one another cannot be expected to lead to agreement on a method for finding out what ought to be. However, we can still reason -converse- with others to reach conclusions about what ought to be done in some particular cases.

In my next post, I elaborate on what has been brought out in this post. Human moral thinking is fundamentally logically inconsistent.
The fundamental inconsistency is that moral thinking is both deontological (rule based) and teleological (good seeking).

This does not mean that people have to think inconsistently when thinking about morals. There are different ways of removing a fundamental inconsistency in moral thinking. The result is that different consistent ways of moral thinking can be taken and these ways will be logically inconsistent with one another.