Logic, Reason & Rationality Are Not What You Probably Think They Are

Many people use ‘logic, reason & rationality’ to justify their beliefs by mistaking attempts to think critically with objectivity itself.

How often have you observed someone being condescending, acting infallible or  justifying being an asshole under the guise of logic, reason and/or rationality? Personally I have observed it a lot, and to be quite honest, have been guilty of it myself. Often when I write these condemnations they are just as much a way for me  to reflect on my own past behaviors, in the hopes of improving them in the future, as they are about calling others out.

I would also like to add up front that logic, reason & rationality can be noble endeavors. They all certainly have their place in the Parthenon of Critical Thinking. Yet it is a mistake to equate them to being the lone routes to Absolute Truth. Such truths may not even exist, and the truths of our lives can be arrived at by many different roads. Absolute Truth is nothing more than the mythology of authority.

The issue is that authority does not realize it is predicated on myths, because they believe absolutely in them. And often the way they justified literal beliefs in their truths is based on having arrived at them via logic, reason & rationality. However they are often not even actually referring to the actual use of that trifecta of truthsayers, but just reverse engineering them by way of referencing the scripted responses of naive realism and scientific materialism.

Let’s take a look at logic, reason & rationality and see if we can figure out where this all goes awry.

Logic: A system of observing inferences and other semantic issues and then judging the efficacy of statements and consistency of a system based on those observations.

Reason & Rationality: These two terms are pretty much interchangeable and the definition of one word almost always includes the other. There are not exact definitions for either of them, but there are a few basic ideas behind them. The first is that they require a recognition of fallibility, as you must be able to recognize new information or theories and discard those of the past, even if they were once the most rational or reasonable. The second idea behind these concepts is that you remain consistent with your starting assumptions or first premises.

Logic is axiomatic. It applies only to axiomatic systems like language, chemistry and mathematics. It is not a tool by which the content of our daily lives can be deemed adequate or not. To apply logic outside of its realm of usefulness is to bring a screwdriver to a nailing party.

Reason and rationality have an obvious flaw, and that is that if your starting assumptions and first premises are flawed, everything that follows will be built on those flaws and subject to them. From my observations the people most likely to harangue you about reason and rationality are the very same people who refuse to examine very deeply their starting assumptions or first principles. They are the ones most likely to take unverified, and often unverifiable, things for granted.

So what unverified and potentially unverifiable things do they take for granted? None other but the nature of reality itself. In modern times the naive realism and scientific materialism I spoke of earlier are both taken for granted by experts and laymen alike, and are almost always the operating assumptions of those who consider themselves the most reasonable and rational. Yet neither of those beliefs about reality have been verified, nor does it currently seem there is even a way to do so with enough certainty to call it reasonable or rational.

What we have ended up with is recursion, or circular logic. Unverified premises are used to verify the statements and theories based on them. Often the ability to practically apply knowledge gained in this process is then used to justify that which is still not verified. The truths provided by reason and rationality are often those which are the most convenient to the believers.

When practical application does not apply, then the reasonable and rational believer will attempt to apply facts. But using verifiable data points to justify a truth is like playing connect the dots backward. When you start with an assumption of truth and then find the facts that fit it, you are placing dots on a drawing you already made and then calling those dots the basis of the drawing.

The issue is that the only way to be reasonable and rational about reason and rationality is to start from the assumption that objective and absolute truths are unknowable. If you begin from the mindset that objective and absolute truths are knowable, then you will easily be able to reverse engineer them from that assumption. Yet that does not make them objective or absolute in any way whatsoever.

If somebody starts bombarding you with terms like ‘facts’, ‘truth’, ‘objectively’, ‘logic’ or ‘reason & rationality’ what they are really trying to do is assert their authority over you. Get away from them and their toxic delusions as quickly as you possibly can.

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