Sunday, August 15, 2004

On Reason

It is said that consciousness distinguishes humanity from the rest of the world's inhabitants. It is because of reason that we are humans and are supposed masters of our destiny. If this is so, then it means we are wholly in control of our lives, and all human activity would amount to a state of being that is relatively pain-free.

In all of humanity’s 250,000 year-old history, our struggle for this pain-free state seems constant. And despite of supposed advances in technology, of our mastery over the forces of nature that once could obliterate us without malice or mercy, human suffering remains. Why?

If it is indeed true that it is our reason that causes us to question the world and how we fit in it, if it is true that all of human activity seeks explanation that such causes such, why have we not ended the causes of many human problems?

Because as we grow old, our views and beliefs cease to expand, grow, change. We, objects of history, resist change and become fixed. Fixed in our thoughts, secure in our knowledge of what the picture of the world is like. It is flat. It is the center of the universe. It is the masterpiece of God the Father. Saying otherwise, is deadly. Why is there such fear in the radical? In the potentially destabilizing? In questioning the status quo?

Is it due to pride in our self-congratulatory smugness that the way we conceive the world, others and ourselves holds true for all eternity? If so, then we cease to reason, and we cease to exist. We are but hollow shells of what we could potentially be. Is this the cause, therefore, of the human condition that remains, after many millennia, to be brutal?

Stating such pessimistic view as above does not preclude continuing the struggle for goodness, for reason. Must we not break free from the chains of our own making?

In a world where some have become richer than millions of others combined, is it true that only the poorest are oppressed? That only the poorest are deprived of reason? But constraints occur in all strata of society, a society that is now more than ever decidedly material. The poor are constrained from emancipation and reason by the very real threat of starvation. While the rich are constrained by the very materiality in which they swim and are abundant in.

If René Descartes is to be believed, that we think therefore we are, then he forgot to add: restlessly, critically and without complacency.

No comments: