Reason Alone

We cannot live by reason alone. This is why no quantity of reason, applied as antiseptic, can compete with the balm of faith, once the terrors of this world begin to intrude upon our lives. . . . This has led many of us to conclude, wrongly, that human beings have needs that only faith in certain fantastical ideas can fulfill. It is nowhere written, however, that human being must be irrational, or live in a perpetual state of siege to enjoy an abiding sense of the sacred. On the contrary, I hope to show that spirituality can be–indeed must be–deeply rational, even as it elucidates the limits of reason.

End of Faith, Sam Harris.

Amen brother.

3 replies on “Reason Alone”

Harris’ work is interesting for a lot of reasons. One is that while you and I both have agreement with a lot of what he says, those areas of agreement are mostly disjoint sets.

How can spirituality be “deeply rational”? I can not see how this can be true, but perhaps I just don’t see what people mean by “spiritual”. I am open to being taught.

How can spirituality be “deeply rational”?

If you assume there is a non-physical reality, then one could rationally approach that reality. Consider emotions–which have a physical underpinning, but the physical description of them is ordinarily too complex to be useful–I can deal with my emotions in a rational way. For instance, I may have a rule to hold angry emails for 12 hours; I may refrain from blaming the other person in a conversation wherein I am frustrated; etc.

If spirituality encompasses real (but non-physical) things and processes, then you can apply rational thinking to it.

Spirituality does exist. It is common to most humans, like anger, as you point out. Like anger, it has a physiological component as well. But I would argue that for all its reality, the reality we are acknowleging is a reality of human experience. That a brain can partially deactivate the center of the brain that identifies the “self” doesn’t imply anything about the nature of the universe.

But you’re right, even if you accept my extremely reductionist definition, you can approach the topic rationally.

Leave a Reply