Reason

People don’t want Reason, they want rationalizations. People don’t seek the Truth, they seek assurances. To search for Reality is to surrender all illusions of subjective control. Such a thing is too painful, too terrifying for the human mind to do completely even if the force of will is there, so it is done partially. The selective mind accepts one truth and rejects another, grabs the immediately useful while turning a blind eye to the inconvenient. Human history is a series of realizations, moments when the blind eye decides to take a peek and sees that what is being avoided, rather than being a threat, is actually something powerful that can be integrated and used. This taking a peek does not happen by itself – the ignorant eye will stay shut if left to its own devices – but rather, this happens through the passionate encouragements of those daring enough to gaze where others feared. The eye must be persuaded to look, and what is being seen must be be explained in its own terms.

Reason has no value in itself. Take, for example, the following thought experiment. Suppose, through a great effort of your mind, you construct a wholly rational philosophical framework which tells you that the ultimate purpose of life is to die. Would you, seeing no gaps of logic in your argument, decide to submit to this work of “reason” and take your own life? I can already hear the reader’s objections. For instance, one may say that such a thought experiment is only hypothetical – no rational framework would ever be so absurd, so it is impossible to think about it seriously. But whence comes such an objection? It comes from an unconscious assertion of human drives that will always come before reason, that is: our most basic desire – to live. The very objection is evidence that reason cannot come before emotion, will never come before emotion. Reason is a tool, emotion the drive.

It thus follows that Truth, if there is such a thing, will only ever be accepted at moments when it intersects with perceived self interest, when it falls in line with emotion. When logic or fact does not intersect with perceived self interest, it will be ignored, rejected, fought, derided and mocked. The mind closes itself to ideas it deems harmful, and seeing that Reason is not in itself a value, can never be persuaded simply by virtue of of an idea being true. To be accepted, a rational idea must also be appealing. This is what you must understand – people don’t want your truth – they lack the strength and capacity to receive it even if it were presented to them on a silver plate. Yes, you may be right, but being right alone won’t make them accept you – oftentimes the opposite.

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“For even falsehood, uttered by the tongue of man, seemed like truth and light before this hopelessly-deaf and unresponsive silence.”

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Further Reading

Proust wrote that the true voyage of discovery is not to visit strange lands, but to possess other eyes, to behold a hundred universes that each of them beholds. Thus, in the words of Ruskin, what good books give us is not mere knowledge, but sight.

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