Where is reason?

The mind in nature sees something nature cannot – itself.  It introduces unique faculties into nature, such as intention, design and reason.  Reason is regarded as our ‘highest’ faculty – a fact seen as a part of nature and apart from nature.  We observe that the facts we illuminate and explain in nature don’t reason or find things out about themselves; nevertheless, we conclude that everything belongs to something else that causes it to be the way it is.  We use our unique faculty of reason to tell ourselves that we are not alone, adducing that our perception of the world as it is, is caused by the world as it is.

Everything has a cause, including causality.  Causality is a statement of reason that the mind projects upon the world.  We impute powers to causes by identifying with them the fact of change – as if the cause holds the answer – as if nature explains life or the brain explains thought and reason.  But causality isn’t the whole story.  We create explanations in reason by identifying one fact with another, cause with effect, now said to be ‘the reason’ that the facts have given us.    But reason is a fact of mind that is unlike any other fact that other facts ‘alone’ can supply – in the body, brain, nature, number, pattern, process, structure, order or evolution.  The mind is a fact in addition, a reality uniquely placed to recognise a change in reality, beginning with itself – a change that is then ‘explained’ by causes acting mindlessly, without will or reason, leading some thinkers to deduce that the mind is an illusion.

Explanation is not all it seems.  Causality ‘explains’ one thing in terms of another, and we think that the same applies to our thinking because the mind cannot be fundamental.  But reality exceeds explanation – things are simultaneously one thing and another – perception does and does not mirror the world, the molecular world is and is not alive, nature does and does not comprise and compose our intentions.  Reason pursues the fact of the ‘must be’, but paradoxical facts defy reason and rob us of the conclusiveness we try to invest in an objective world, nevertheless we proceed to draw conclusions by ignoring their paradoxical nature, and our own – we consider that the mind may be prone to illusion but reason cannot be – so paradox is resolvable by the ‘hard’ facts upon which our reasoning rests because fact is definitive and paradox poses but a temporary contradiction in terms.

In explanation, the terms are everything.  We begin by naming things, then proceed to draw connections.  We call it reasoning.  Reasoning seeks to explain itself by referencing its terms to a world outside, but ‘outsides’ are facts relative to ‘insides’.  We project our reasoning onto the world, to find it there – thereby to attribute our reasons to the facts.  We distil from our findings the principles that are ‘there to be discovered’ from all our observations, thereby to construe a fact that pre-empts proof – that things are not alone.  Proof requires the equation of one thing with another, so our reasons are seen to gain their authority from principles that are bigger than us, in reasons that equate to the facts of an outside world, in facts acting without reason or intention.

Likewise, science is an application of reasoning to a world outside.  We see the world as filled with science; but we don’t really find ‘science’ there, except that we create the fact of science in the world.  In reality, proof is relative to the mind that considers something proved according to the principles it brings to the equation.  Furthermore, because reality is bigger than science, we find that the ‘facts of science’ amount to no more than our interim conclusions.  Undaunted, we conclude that science belongs to the outside world, as if our reasoning can now be validated as a fact of science, in facts that can be discovered to speak for themselves.   But however conclusive we may find the facts to be, the fact remains that only minds draw conclusions.

No fact does our thinking for us, not even in the brain.  Finding the cause of thought in the brain does not explain the change to thought in the nature of a physical world, neither does attributing that change to evolution.  Meanwhile, we continue to invest our reasoning in the facts by seeking to confirm a match, thereby to conclude that there is an ultimate conclusiveness to be found ‘out there’, in the facts of the external world.  But our humility veils our hubris; for in deducing that the mind also owes its source to those same externals, we give ourselves the authority to claim that there is nothing better to conclude, since the facts must select our conclusions – facts telling us that reason is grounded – confirming the fact of what is there, as if what is the case is better known from the nature of something else, as if reason resolves the paradox of change by proving that things change without really changing.

© Mike Laidler

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