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.