Friday, November 20, 2009

Abusing Rationalism

Recall that in the broadest sense a rationalist is anyone who is predisposed to believe that all important knowledge is attainable. In this context note that one of the fundamental principles of rational dynamics is that the accumulation of knowledge brings with it greater power. This notion motivates self-centered individuals to seek knowledge for the purpose of increasing their power. In the long run, pursuing such an immature rationalist agenda will cause more problems than it solves. The great threat posed by rationalism is evident in the fact that the scientific and technological breakthroughs it continues to produce are providing increasingly efficient mechanisms for bringing about the end of humanity.

In the face of this danger we continue to eagerly embrace rationality. To understand why this is, first note that in more mundane circumstances it can be difficult to differentiate a rationalist from a mystic. But as situations become more challenging it becomes easier to distinguish those responding rationally from those reacting mystically. The rationalist contends that with sufficient time we can accumulate the knowledge to solve any problematic situation, regardless of its complexity. The mystic believes that for problems exceeding a certain scope, the knowledge to solve them either does not exist or resides forever beyond our rational grasp. It is this viewpoint that inclines mystics to appeal to external, often supernatural, agents for assistance with such challenges. This means that given the spectrum of perspectives extending from total rationality at one end to pure mysticism at the other, those adopting the more rationalist outlooks are more self-determined and personally empowered than those embracing more mystical points of view.

It is through the application of rationality that we increase our objective understanding of and control over our world. The subjectivity that manifests in the absence of rationality limits the precision with which we can share knowledge and experiences with others. This means that rationality is the most efficient mechanism for building an empirically confirmed consensus of knowledge that is immune to subjective uncertainty. Such a rationally-derived structure reflects the accumulated power of our intellect in that it is the foundation of our most consistent capacity to influence our surroundings. The story of the Tower of Babel is essentially the tale of a mystical God opposing such a program.

Appropriate resistance to such a rationalist agenda is based on understanding that increasing rationality does not necessarily correspond to increasing wisdom. As such, there is no guarantee that even the most brilliant rationalist has the maturity to pursue knowledge and accumulate the accompanying power, without also laying the groundwork for our extinction. This is because as long as knowing better does not automatically equate to doing better, we will always be able to think better than we can be.

This is the dynamic underlying the fact that, left to their own devices, immature rationalists have a tendency to be indifferent to the negative impact of their pursuits on others. These self-centered rationalists are often inclined to use the power they gain from amassing knowledge, to enrich themselves by exploiting others in ways that limit their victims’ growth. Such oppression represents the essence of evil.

To limit the spread of this condition throughout our society we must transition from a quest for the knowledge to subjugate our world, to an altruistic program to discover and fulfill a logical, unifying purpose that is not based on separating ourselves from everything else. The specific nature of this purpose will become evident as we find rational answers to our most important existential questions. These discoveries are the events that will facilitate the cultural transformation that will prevent our rational self-destruction. If we abandon the search for rational existential answers, this crucial social paradigm shift will most likely not occur.

In that eventuality, knowledge will become our ultimate weapon of mass destruction. The more we wield its accompanying power to further our own self interests, the more this knowledge will consume that which we should be encouraging to grow. Such ill-conceived choices are typically justified by our sense of self-importance, which expands with our power from a self-centered perspective.

In making the fundamental choice to always favor ourselves over others, we become susceptible to the principle of sentient dynamics that is characterized by the adage: “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely”. In this context, the power we gain from a self-centered pursuit of a rationalist agenda will lead to an increasingly brutal world in which people increasingly prey on each other until we completely devour ourselves.

It is important to realize that if this is to be our fate it will be the result of an abuse of the rationalist program. Our rational self-destruction would not be due to the fact that we went in search of rational answers; it will be because along the way we became lost in our own self-importance and failed to develop wisdom required to safely handle what we discovered.

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