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Friday, November 16, 2007

Inherent to human rationality is an implicit drive for utopian existence

Garrison’s World: The Irrelevance of Rational Atheism and the New Philosophy of the Non-Rational - Part 2 Thu, 08 Nov 2007 18:29:05 -0800 PST by John C. Garrison
The First World War (1914-1918) marked the beginning of the end for this heady optimism of Enlightenment rationalism and its liberal/progressive philosophy, though not the end of rationalism itself. You will find a lot of academicians, scientists and atheists still clinging, as to floating remnants of a shipwreck, to the dying, futile and foolish progressive dream of rationalism. Such irrationality experienced in World War I in so widespread and brutal a scale all but wiped out the then existing Enlightenment optimism and its faith in the supremacy of reason and the inevitability of scientific progress.
The Second World War, following close behind with a greater irrational ferocity, became the final blow for many who had entertained the foolish rationalist dream. Thus, while rationalism itself survived (just barely) the headiness it received from the Enlightenment period is hardly to be seen anywhere. Moreover, quantum theory, now slowly getting to be known by the masses, continues to have a profound sobering effect on many rationalist scientists and academic scholars who are exposed to its findings and their dramatic (if not shocking) philosophical implications concerning the nature of consciousness and of objective (or external) reality.
By the end of the Second World War, the foundations for nihilistic postmodernism were already in place. The movement burst dramatically into the open with the cultural revolutions of the 1960s, bringing to an end (within rationalism’s secular culture) the “traditional” social values upheld by both Christianity and rationalism. Nonetheless, having in its beginning left behind the authority of God and Scripture, the empirical or scientific method guided by reason continued to be upheld by rationalism as that which would determine what is true, real and believable. Faith in a supernatural order was put on the same level as superstition. This was the atheistic rationalism of Sigmund Freud, who appears to be one of the last major champions of the now antiquated, rationalistic Enlightenment philosophy.
A main objective in this part of my series on rational atheism is to begin a demonstration that will put into more doubt the grandiose, historic claims of rationalism, with those of modern, atheistic rationalism particularly in mind. As already noted, these rationalist claims have involved the belief that human reason with its methodical logic is inherently capable of finding correct answers to the riddles and difficulties of life without the need to rely on anything else-definitely not religion or religious faith.
In this rationalist assumption is the naïve and totally unfounded belief that, with certain safeguards, reason can be wholly objective. As such, reason is seen as being capable of operating free from subjective bias or pre-disposition, thus necessarily yielding truthful conclusions. A great number of thoughtful people, not necessarily all religious, no longer believe this. But for the sake of die-hards who still hang on to the foolish and futile dream of rationalism, I will here give more reasons why the pursuit of utopian-minded rationalism is a fruitless, dead-end pursuit and those who follow this relic of the past have either been conned or have deluded themselves to believe such nonsense...
When we consider the drive in human rationality toward an ever improving condition of life, it is not too difficult to see that inherent to human rationality is an implicit drive for utopian existence. For our purpose here, we define utopia as a state of being where the living environment is free from anything hurtful, threatening, disappointing, or frustrating...
But the arts are not the only place where we have seen the utopian drive of rationality manifest itself in history. We have seen it expressing itself in major political movements driven by a misguided (if not evil) Enlightenment rationalism seeking to bring about a golden era for humanity. Thus, the Enlightenment-inspired, socialist movements that in the end culminated in Marxist communism are a most dramatic example of this. Marxism was a highly rationalistic movement that exalted science, denigrated religion and looked forward with the most profound naïveté to an eventual state of economic prosperity and personal satisfaction where everyone would happily contribute according to their ability and be certain to receive according to their needs.
The utopian drive in healthy human rationality can be a real blessing. It motivates people to improve their lot in life through diligent application of resources at hand and through creative innovations. On the other hand, human rationality and its utopian drive can become problematical when rationality becomes absolutized.
How do we absolutize rationality? We do it when we become so enamored and fixated on the importance we place on our rationality that we lose sight of its subjective and therefore limited or finite nature. Under such a mental state, we delude ourselves into assuming that our rationality is not merely a subjective principle limited to the confines of our mind and brain. Rather, we believe it is a principle that should rule everywhere in objective or external existence. For instance, every dictator and despot, such as Stalin or Hitler, and every dogmatic rationalist atheist, such as Marx or Freud absolutizes rationality.

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