Animal Rationale


We in the West took the Aristotelian project way too seriously.  We shoved a rocket up its ass, and now we wonder why there are drones flying overhead.  We will be forever watching our backs because of that dumb move!  And soon they will be armed.  What were those guys thinking when they said A=A, and only A; that A & B cannot become one, intertwined, or, god forbid, of one substance.  Aristotle and his followers took distinction making to another level.  Frankenstein lives.  We have become slaves to the rational machine, my friends.  Every step we make, every decision we reach, all of it is based upon a reasoned judgment or “rationalized.”  We rationalize war, rape, and progress.  We rationalize resource depletion, global climate change, and unemployment figures, stock trades, insurance premiums, prison sentences, and horticultural strategies.  It is so nice to be twice wise, yes?

What if we lost our capacity for rational thought?  Or have we already?  Is reason only effectively engaged when it is balanced with emotion, compassion, sensation and feeling?  For Aristotle, humanity was to be understood as a rational animal; Man was defined by his capacity for rational thinking.  This was our distinctive nature, and ours alone.  And all other animal faculties, the profoundly captivating spell of the sensuous, would be forsaken in the interests (another rationalization) of reason.

Aquinas applied the very same methodologies to theological issues, and the generation of proofs for the existence of deity.  And Rene Descartes just continues down this path with his systematic doubt of the senses, finally proclaiming “I think, therefore, I am.”  What a fool!  Immanuel Kant then follows it up with his critique of reason, until the entire edifice is constructed and we have a full flushing out (systematically) of the categories of human understanding, so that we now know exactly how it is that we now know. Now, isn’t that clarifying?

We have come to the end of the road, my friends.  The brightest and the best have concluded that we can reason or rationalize our way out of any fix; just give them enough time and money.  And so we conquered agricultural pests with chemicals, droughts with irrigation systems, human waste with indoor plumbing, the enemy with hardware and software, distance relations with telephonics and air travel, social and political unrest with homeland security, resource depletion with… uh oh!  Global warming with… uh oh!  Extreme weather with… uh oh!  Extreme man-made disasters… uh oh!

We have becomes slaves to reason, and captives to its end products, for good or bad.  We no longer think for ourselves; reason thinks for us.  We have become split not only from our own bodies but from reason as well — now elevated into a Transcendental function of consciousness. (Y’all remember functions from algebra class in high school, right?) Well, no matter, water under… and all that stuff. Back to slavery.  We are taught and prodded, scolded and tested until we learn as very young children that actions have consequences, that 2+2 = 4, that universal principles applied to specific circumstances always lead to very definite outcomes or reasoned conclusions.  When we apply such principles of thought they yield practical results… they work… but how do they work? and to what end (damn reasoning again)!

Can we ever get off of this merry-go-round, this carousel of reason and rationalization? Can we stop the madness?  The following quotation is attributed to Albert Einstein:

The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.  

The man was undoubtedly no fool, even if he was a genius.  Even worse, we have indentured ourselves to this servant, become its slave.  But, what about this thing we have forgotten – this intuition, this feral memory trace buried with our sinews and our bones; this sense of participation in the world that held our species together and protected for hundreds of millennia?  How do we awaken this sleeping giant?

Perhaps we are not prepared; maybe capable, but no longer willing to live a life so exposed and engaged.  This disengagement, this distancing from the earthly sensuous, remaining pleasantly aloft in the realm of transcendental reason is much easier for us at this juncture.   It is an addiction that is tough to shake; and they just keep feeding us with the toys and spectacles which the addiction entails.  We are like the Uroboros eating his own tail.  We are consuming ourselves through the unfailing and unforgiving application of reason, unchecked and unmitigated. Logic defines our world; and if it does not fit logically into place we discard it, or reconfigure (rationalize) it to fit.  And so, we have drones overhead; and soon they will be armed.  And the reasoning… it will be sound!

We can reason our way to any conclusion.  Just look at the wars we have instigated or perpetrated around the globe in this generation.  The reasoning is designed to sound irreproachable.  The logic unimpeachable.

I do not deny that emotion, intuition, and even more organic desire may enter into the equation. They do.  Indeed, every reasoned argument begins with certain prejudices and presuppositions.  There is no purely objective starting point.  Every scientific analysis begins with an hypothesis, a presumption about the world that the investigator then attempts to justify.  Every rationalization hides within itself some organic intuition or desire.  Perhaps the Buddha was right.  Extinguish desire and the world evaporates. Perhaps our world is already evaporating from a plethora of desire. Perhaps we just need to recognize the real roots of our capacity for reason, and allow the spell of the sensuous, the organic, the feral, the raw, to have its day in court.

43 Responses to Animal Rationale

  1. Disaffected says:

    What if we lost our capacity for rational thought? Or have we already?

    First of all, great post Sandy(?)!

    I think we’ve effectively gone post-rational, to borrow an academic buzz-phrase. As your post so very effectively points out, we’ve carried the idea to its logical extreme and “broke on through to the other side.” After spending a few weeks over at Naked Crapitalism listening to the tortured logic of every manner of neo-liberal, quasi-liberal, and whatever’s left type of self-inflated academic egghead pontificate about this that and the other pseudo-economic theory, I finally had to throw my hands in the air in defeat and fairly beg the board moderator to banish me for my own good. So much rational bullshit in so little time was simply more than an admittedly simple man like me could take.

    That said, as I think you are alluding to as well, such unbounded rationality is ultimately expressed merely as pathology. Working in an institution (an apt term!) of supposed unbridled and theoretically unlimited rationality, I can tell you from first hand experience that it’s anything but (although I’m sure most of my cohort would say that it’s me who’s being irrational). And so it goes. To every thing, there is a season, turn, turn, turn… Me thinks the current season of hyper-rationality – which our worship of money, technology, and violence as the ultimate score keeper is the perfect expression of – is about over. But of course, I could be wrong.

    At any rate, here’s hoping the baby boomer generation, which seems to epitomize the current current rationality and have brought it to it’s ultimate fruition (and which I’m a card-carrying member of as well), will at least do one good thing for posterity before it dies out and is gone forever, and at least sow the seeds of something better. I’m a tail-ender myself at 55, and already it’s occurring to me that our moment in the sun is just about over. Having bequeathed to our youth a vainglorious, me-centric, purely monetary value based culture based on the ever-present threat of state sponsored violence, it might be the only thing we have left.

    • leavergirl says:

      “So much rational bullshit in so little time”

      I know just the pain you speak of. But is it fair to blame the vainglory and hubris on us baby boomers? It’s the crap we ourselves inherited, tried to bust out of, and… sigh…

      • Disaffected says:


        Unfortunately, yeah, I think it’s fair to blame us for much, if not most of it. We certainly inherited it from our elders, but I think it’s hard to argue that we didn’t raise it to another level altogether. Pitch it in slightly more flattering terms (which is to say, any current mainstream marketing pitch), and I have no doubt that most fellow boomers wouldn’t embrace that very idea themselves. Unapologetic hubris seems to be the rule of the day, even still. I think we still often forget (to our peril! ) that we on this board are still decidedly non-mainstream!

        Nonetheless, I can’t avoid the counter-current in my conversations with the 30 somethings I regularly interact with, even in an up scale place like where I live. There’s genuine fear and doubt out there over their place in the world, which we’ve unfortunately brought them up to accept without question. Even as they flaunt their I phone enabled superfluous roles in an overtly superficial and shallow society, they know that they too, are merely one stop away from living with mommy and daddy again. I sense that most know full well what’s going on, they just dare not admit it. Rationality? They dare not speak it’s name!

        • derekthered says:

          ah yes, the tyranny of reason, how well we all know it, mix well with a bit of group-think, season with a universal ideal, before you know it, it’s alive!!!!!!!!!!!!!
          let’s see what the good doctor has to say

          whoa!!!!! whattabout those previews of coming attractions? i want to see that movie.
          and Ethan Hawke started out so nice, with the Disney movies and all, the degene-erate.

          yeah well, who says life doesn’t imitate art. me? i think they are just jealous, seeing as how i came by my brilliance naturally. it’s all in the jeans.
          geez, sorry, couldn’t resist.
          you know, i’ve said it before, people need food, clothing, and shelter; plus a little something to believe in, something to give their lives meaning. i don’t blame the boomers, it’s been going on 1,000’s of years, we just found the world as it was and did the best we could.
          just realized they don’t play the same ads before videos, when i went back for another shot of the doctor.

          here is a link regarding the purge. first the surge, then the splurge, now the purge, pretty bulimic, don’t they have a pill for that? yes, yes, i know, not PC. making light of them who have problems, whaddya expect? i ain’t had no skoolin. nevertheless the comparison is apt, we have gorged ourselves, spirits of ancient egypt, shadows of ancient rome.

          but seriously, part of our problem is we take everything so seriously, which of course comes from our hyper-rationality, the city of god and all.
          there may have been a time when we could have gotten the mix just right, small farms and railroads, or 100 years ago if wilson hadn’t run out the reds, but this is all academic now.
          yes, a long post. all i can say, is bring on the night, whether from orneriness or exhaustion, early indoctrination or mercy.
          i’m just not so sure i want to go up to the lab and see what’s on the slab.

          • Disaffected says:

            LOL! Good stuff Red! I vaguely remember the year 1976, in which I allegedly “graduated” from a midwestern USA high school which shall remain nameless (and thus be spared the embarrassment of my association). As has been said many time of the 60’s and can be equally said for most of the 70’s, if you can remember the details, you weren’t actually there.

            As to the issue of hyper-rationality and our capitalism dominatrix, I guess the question is, which comes first? At first blush at least, they’re the perfect symbiotic pair and seem to be the perfect Janus twin-faced monster. Perfect emotional greed meets perfect logical rationality and falls in perfect love. And I’m not sure I have anything to add to that. I think it represents nothing less than the ultimate symbiosis of what most religious texts decry as mankind’s core arrogance/lust, and which most predict/prophesize will be our (ultimate) downfall for thereafter. Even granting that most religious texts are mythic in nature and tend to hyperbole, I think they’re at least on the right track. A lot more than any of the academic horseshit justifying the current state of affairs anyway.

            • derekthered says:

              i remember the sixties just fine, it’s the seventies that are kind of sketchy, but then i quit drinking (so much) in the early eighties.
              it just seems to me that we have lost touch with the land, with the earth. “if you can think it, you can do it”, which was sold as a positive affirmation, has caused more problems than can be listed. “with great power comes great responsibility” it is such a hackneyed phrase, but if a person,or a culture, is able to insulate themselves from feedback loops eventually it all breaks loose in a flood.
              by the way, the good doctor? it’s george clinton, i think of him as the black frank zappa, when you check out his career he has been all over the place, lot of production.
              outrageous images, fun night, different realities, it’s all a way to get people out of the normal hum-drum frame of mind. good stuff.

              • Disaffected says:

                it just seems to me that we have lost touch with the land, with the earth. “if you can think it, you can do it”, which was sold as a positive affirmation, has caused more problems than can be listed. “with great power comes great responsibility” it is such a hackneyed phrase, but if a person,or a culture, is able to insulate themselves from feedback loops eventually it all breaks loose in a flood.

                Good stuff all. The end of the American family farm occurred sometime in the 1970’s for most, and with it, the end of the American dream. That really represented the final nail in the coffin for “rugged American individualism.” Automated corporate manufacturing had pretty much killed off the American craftsmen already, corporate agriculture killed off the rest.

                Now? It’s all DIGITAL baby! A 1 or 0 equation of infinite yes/no questions to be answered at near infinite speed by microprocessors operating at near infinite micro-power nearly all of the time. Trouble is, it’s ALL based on the assumption of near infinite energy, based on an energy source which we never took the time to completely understand, and which is not NEARLY as plentiful as we’ve come to believe.

                In the end, humans will be the only animal smart enough to kill off not only themselves, but very likely their entire eco-system. Quite a legacy. Score another one for karma and the law of unintended consequences, and another defeat for the sheer randomness of evolution.

  2. leavergirl says:

    Inspired! 🙂

    Rationalize = rational lies…

  3. derekthered says:

    first thought, add an e to the end of rational, you come up with a rationale. see? it’s so easy. so easy, so easy, like falling in love. hey, that could make a good pop song.

  4. Disaffected says:

    Well, I must say, for an example of perfect capitalism meets perfect rationalism, you certainly don’t have to look hard these days. And why would you?

  5. allow the spell of the sensuous

    That title sounds like a reasonable proposition. 😉

    But to even hint that we let the organic, the feral, the raw, to have its day in court is very dangerous to people, invokes great fear and hostility.

    We will know when we are free of Syllogisms in Support of Subjugation (SSS) when a woman’s bare nipples are viewed as imperturbably as a man’s.

    • Disaffected says:

      On the other hand, men’s nipples ain’t all that attractive to me either. I could do with a whole lot less of those too, when it comes to mass media at least.

      When it comes to outrage over the viewing of human body parts (it even sounds stupid to say it), I might have thought that the western porn industry would have worn that out by now. Perhaps more people should view explicit online porn – boring and base instinct appealing as it is – to just get over it already? In doing so, one discovers that the only true “obscenity” such activity inspires is that one becomes immune to any erotic nature that human sexuality provides. The true obscenity of explicit pornography of any type is not that it’s titillating and appealing to our baser instincts, but rather, that it’s (eventually at least for some) merely boring and corrosive to our basic instincts to love one another on a deeper level.

      • kulturcritic says:

        Very serious, DA! Unlike you!

        • Disaffected says:

          No seriousness implied kC! Just an observation from another aspiring kulturCritic and – ahem! – seasoned observer of porn. In the end it really is true! Men don’t give up porn because of age or lack of basic desire, they give up out of sheer boredom! Body parts, in the end, just ain’t all that interesting.

          • kulturcritic says:

            Ha, ha! Yes, a seasoned pro… like myself.

            • Disaffected says:

              Don’t know which way to take that. I’ll leave it alone. No implications implied. Suffice it to say, men have been sold porn for our entire lifetimes, just as women as have been sold into it. Needless to say, it’s demeaning to both sides. Regardless, IT SELLS, which is the only thing that matters. Human sexuality has been effectively bought and sold (commodified) is my point. And that’s the ONLY point!

              • derekthered says:

                Chris Hedges has an entire chapter on this phenomenon in his book “Empire of Illusion”, many of these porn players are deeply unhappy people. i have given this subject some consideration, and not just when this post came up. i think we must consider whether human sexuality, besides being commodified (that’s a given), perhaps we should consider the idea that the human body itself has been broken down into constituent parts, atomized as it were; what effect does this have on our psyches? as usual i am reaching for it, but then that’s what i do.

                i might also add that i see no fault in modest epople, after all we are dealing with sex, desire, reproductive organs, the sorts of things that are very personal and intimate and carry a lot of meaning in people’s lives.

                oh yeah, as for porn, you could say that i’m what do you call it? a kinda-sewer?

    • derekthered says:

      Syllogisms in Support of Subjugation? the fact that womens breats are sexually arousing to a man is hardly what you say, there are some things that just come naturally. i have followed this line of reasoning, read some of the texts, not everything that happens between people in this arena has to have some deep or sinister meaning.
      i would agree that we are sexually repressed and that nudity should be less of a big deal, but making sexual attraction some sort of intellectual footbal? not good.

      • Brian Bowman says:

        Many animals find each other sexually attractive, yet only one animal covers itself in shame, and only one sex of that one animal demands the other sex cover itself even more.

        Domestication of other plants and animals to house-bondage (hus-bandry), subjugation of women to house-bondage (hus-band), and the clothing of She-Who-Is-Property, that’s the neolithic revolution in a nutshell.

        • kulturcritic says:

          I think Brian is right on-track here!

          • derekthered says:

            well yes, he’s on track, but in western societies this prejudice has been pretty much dealt with, other societies? not so much. sure, perfection will never be acheived.
            w/o getting into a deep discussion, my point is that there are attributes of the human body which will always elicit reactions from the opposite sex.
            my daughters go on and on about Hugh Jackman, them and their freinds, and the scene they like the most? in “Australia” when his shirt is off and he pours water all over himself. it’s not just the men who admire a beautiful body.

            • derekthered says:

              know what? i admire Hugh jackmans body also, i mean the guy is an Adonis.
              plus, the guy is married to the same woman for a long time, his choice, course as soon as i say that they will report he’s getting a divorce………………….

              • kulturcritic says:

                Who is Hugh Jackman?

                • derekthered says:

                  Hugh Jackman is Wolverine in the X-Men movies, and “Drover” in the movie “Australia”

                  the ladies love him. pure animal magnetism. marilyn had it, so did burt lancaster, russell crowe to a large extent. the interplay between crowe and kim basinger in “LA Confidential” is priceless.
                  the movies, like it or not it’s where a large part of the zeitgeist is on display.

        • derekthered says:

          i about halfway agree with you, if nudity was more the norm it would become more commonplace and not nearly so, shal we say, “titillating”, pun intended. man! talk about some cultural conditioning! what you’re talking about i believe.

      • kulturcritic says:

        Dereks got a great point here, Brian (arrowpeakhouse)!!

        • Brian Bowman says:

          He does; and I agree, we aren’t going to change culture that both objectifies females and prohibits bare female nipples by streakin’ nekkid as a jaybird.

          I’m just saying that the paleolithic savage (dwellers of the silva, or forest) ancestors generally ran around unclothed, or at least bare breasted, unashamed. and theirs was a more egalitarian society. I think human clothing and human hierarchy closely correlate.

          And wearing clothes is so very reasonable. The syllogism ran through my head again this morning:

          • Major premise: All hairless great apes not wearing clothes in public receive severe punishment.
          • Minor premise: I’m a hairless great ape who is not fond of punishment.
          • Conclusion: Therefore, I donned my threads.

          Our whole hellish culture runs on a syllogism with the major premise being one of severe punishment.

          • derekthered says:

            yup, i see what you’re steppin’ in. you make valid points, acknowledged. but then many of our laws are essentially arbitrary, necessarily based upon what is really just the groups opinion. one of my first posts here i made precisely that point.
            reading this blog and people’s thoughts, such as yours, prompts me to question many of my most cherished assumptions; this is good as i had been rather static for quite some time.

          • derekthered says:

            went to your link, and yes, i had discovered the sheol gambit some years ago. actually it says that those in the grave know nothing, so how could they be suffering? other thing is, a close reading of the apocalypse and you find that the souls of those not found in the “lambs book of life” suffer the “second death”, which could only be the death of the soul.
            so, this resolves the problem of the “merciful god”, who condemns creatures he created to eternal suffering.

            really, this is all academic to me, not being a believer myself, it’s just illuminating that many who profess belief don’t even know what is in their holy book, nor do they attempt to tackle the philosophical issues raised by their faith. 🙂

            actually? i wish i could believe, it would be a comfort, but i am not made that way; this fact caused some consternation among the nuns when i started the 1st grade; luckily i had a mom who granted me my freedom of conscience, and never put me down one time for my unbelief, despite being devout herself.

  6. DrCiber says:

    It was to be expected, doncha’ think?
    “Quem deus vult perdere, dementat prius”

  7. Brian Bowman says:

    Sandy’s post has got me thinking about Robert Pirsig‘s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance insights again, namely:

    The number of rational hypotheses that can explain any given phenomenon is infinite.

    (If true, that law is not a minor flaw in scientific reasoning. The law is completely nihilistic. It is a catastrophic logical disproof of the general validity of all scientific method! If the purpose of scientific method is to select from among a multitude of hypotheses, and if the number of hypotheses grows faster than experimental method can handle, then it is clear that all hypotheses can never be tested. If all hypotheses cannot be tested, then the results of any experiment are inconclusive and the entire scientific method falls short of its goal of establishing proven knowledge.)

    • Disaffected says:

      This is good stuff, which cannot be restated often enough. Although there are caveats (as always). Think I’ll forward this to the most recent discussion.

      Good work!

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