Principles of Reason
ANIL MITRA © SEPTEMBER 2016—March 2017
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Principles of Reason
‘Reason’ is understood broadly as the means of knowing the world which includes possible and desirable action and transformation.
Related terms are argument, logic, fact, and science.
The ‘principles’ gain their full power when deployed in interaction.
Combine with links at head of page.
Review, edit, and change the order of the topics as appropriate.
http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/sufficient-reason/ (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Principle of Sufficient Reason)
For example, enough English to understand this sentence.
What’s my point?
Philosophy seeks, among other things, to critique common knowledge to improve and build upon it.
Therefore in philosophy, we often approach understanding with skepticism—we doubt everything.
But if you doubt everything—truly everything—you may get nowhere.
It is convenient to begin with the assumption of some knowledge. Develop some ideas. Then go back and criticize what you may have assumed in the first place. How deep you go will be determined by the process.
The claim—experience or consciousness is given. That is—there is consciousness.
How can we claim this?
Optimist. There is consciousness.
Skeptic. That’s an illusion.
Optimist. An illusion is an example of consciousness.
Skeptic. But that shows that consciousness has no significance.
Optimist. It shows nothing except that there is consciousness. In itself it shows neither that consciousness is significant nor that it is insignificant. The question of significance is a separate question and should be dealt with separately.
Skeptic. But how can you say that there is consciousness in a material world? After all consciousness is non-material.
Optimist. Aside—oh, so you admit that there is consciousness. Well, granting that there is consciousness that constitutes a problem for one of your assertions—that the world is material and that consciousness is non-material.
Skeptic. But what is consciousness. Surely you need a foundation for it?
Optimist. You are mislead by the general problem of foundations. In physics, for example, we posit particles and fields as part of theory; we can then ask—But what is the constitution of particles and fields – they seem like axioms or assumptions? However, we are not positing consciousness. Consciousness is the name of our feeling of awareness. Perhaps there is something more fundamental, perhaps not. Perhaps consciousness can be explained in terms of our fundamental physics and or biology so far, perhaps not. But consciousness is given. We are right in naming it! We are not positing or assuming it.
Skeptic. But you admit that consciousness can have no material effect?
Optimist. At this stage our conversation it would be wrong to claim or to deny that consciousness has no material effect. It certainly seems to have an effect on the world. I think “I’m going to raise my right arm” and then I determine to do so and I do so.
Skeptic. But what about experiments that show that the decision to do tasks precedes what you call the conscious decision?
Optimist. The experiments concern simple tasks. You would except from adaptation that we as animals have alertness and that a function of subconscious alertness is to respond to the environment, especially dangers, without having to go through a conscious decision making process “I see a tiger. Now what should I do? Run? Climb a tree? How shall I climb this tree? OK first I’ll turn to face the tree. Then I put my right forward. Let me see, what next? Oh, I swing my left hand as I put my right foot forward – etc – What now? Oh, I should scream as the tiger pounces on me.”
Optimist continues. In actual situations the first action may be subconscious. Then consciousness kicks in reflectively. Where we have the time, this is efficient. Even in the case of sudden danger for there are two things (1) split seconds where conscious awareness may help (2) in training where we use consciousness to change our response which then becomes automatic.
Skeptic. OK, so you’ve proven that there is consciousness and it’s effective but you haven’t proven much. Is there a ‘you’ is there a world?
Optimist. All that can be proven after a fashion. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves here. Let’s go back to the question of consciousness or experience in a material world.
The problem of asking about matter and mind right in the beginning is that those are both complex kinds, especially matter. What is matter? Is it what we touch? Is it to be the object of study in physics? The former is vague. The latter is indefinite because physics progresses. Newton’s inert concept of matter hardly allows for mind. But the quantum notion of matter seems as though it may support mind. The point is rather moot for we don’t know that modern quantum theory, accurate as it is for some purposes, is complete. A thousand years from now, say four or five scientific revolutions hence, our physics may still be insufficiently complete to support even the concept of mind (let alone the details of it).
How can we get around it?
Our problem with matter is one reason to consider the concept of Being. We define beings as things that exist and Being as the essential characteristic of beings. Then, beings have Being. Or, beings are Being. Experience (consciousness) has Being and the problem of matter is circumvented—but not avoided: it is deferred to further discussion.
We have just seen a beginning to the power of Being as a neutral abstract term over matter as a fundamental category.
In beginning with Being and experience, we begin ‘in the middle’—i.e., we begin where ‘we are’.
You can now see how beginning where we are, rather than in the esoteric, is a foundation for aiming higher—for what may appear esoteric.
By ‘reflexivity’ I mean use of all approaches to knowing and action, especially in interaction.
Thus reflexivity includes imagination and criticism.
It includes self interaction—e.g., reasoning about reason.
But ‘reflexivity’ does not mean blind interaction. It entails inclusion of careful, surgical, and established ways; and criticism of the latter. But all that is part of reflexivity.
Appropriately cultivated, reflexivity is immensely powerful
See the example for the topic ‘Mind is in the world’, below.
To be completed.
A concept and its intended objects constitute referential meaning. The intended may be specified or left open to, e.g., any that fit.
Linguistic referential meaning associates signs with the concepts. A symbol is a sign and associate concept.
Here’s a pertinent example. Consider ‘reason’. What is its meaning? You look it up and find a slew of related definitions. But you also find assertions such as ‘reason is hard to define’. You also find discussions that talk around reason, giving you a general idea what it is.
Now what shall you take meaning to be? You have an intuitive feel but lack a crisp notion. You can leave it at that. But you can go further. You have an intuition of what reason ‘should’ mean (open to correction) and find that some conceptions are quite different. Perhaps there is more than one meaning. You focus on the one you find most relevant. But even here there is a variety.
When someone says “reason is hard to define” it is as though there is something there that is reason but we don’t quite know what. That is not precisely the situation. It is not as though there is one thing, ‘reason’, awaiting discovery. Rather, we are also in the process of creating and successive approximation. Perhaps we are creating for ourselves some ideal already there but we are also approximating.
Our notion of meaning offers clarity. We recognize, among the continuum, a number of related ideas under ‘reason’. Now if we have a metaphysics at hand, it sheds light on which of these ideas should truly be called reason. We can now identify the concept and its intended objects—‘reason’ will be conceived as; and this are its intended objects; and, relative to the intuitive notion of arriving at valid knowledge and judgment, we can show that in light of the metaphysics, our conception is best. Then, if we can show that the metaphysics is ultimate, we have an ultimate conception. How can we show the metaphysics to be ultimate? Again, this involves clarity of meaning—the metaphysical system is the concept and the world is the object.
Certainty cannot be our aim for all disciplines. In the sciences, we have to accept incompleteness and approximation. However, it is important to remember that while certainty in the sciences is not always possible we cannot say that it is never possible.
But certainty dominates in some disciplines. Philosophy, for example, has a number of concerns:
While patience is a virtue in philosophy—in relation to not over-claiming certainty—we also like ‘conclusions’. What is important is that we can have both certainty and boldness provided we do not confuse the two. It is important that if a conclusion is based on a number of premises then its soundness is limited at least by the least certain of the conclusions.
The question we face is whether a whole picture, e.g. a world metaphysics, can be built up from a combination of certain and bold but uncertain steps.
The general attitude must be openness—case by case analysis. But cannot the ‘weakest link’ argument be leveled against all synthesis that contains a single conclusion?
It might seem so but it would be tragic to conclude so without trying to see whether we can find a ‘yes’ answer.
Here is a ‘yes’ in relation to metaphysics. The metaphysics of ‘The Way’, the ‘universal metaphysics’ is comprised of the following parts:
See the section ‘Categories to be integrated’ in the way of being-Sep2016-mini-pocket manual-reserve.doc.
That is, our thinking, perception, feeling, willing, intending—and reason itself—are all in the world.
The idea that ‘God created the world’ codes the idea of intelligence outside the world and is one source for the mistaken thought that reason is not in the world. Such thinking is a source of ‘split reason’.
Now it is practically convenient in very many contexts to ignore the presence of our mind while using it; but in the general context of reason and existential meaning, this ignoring leads to incomplete understanding and may lead to error.
Why is this important? We often forget the point or treat mind as unreal and this gives us a sense that the operation of mind is (a) beyond the pale of reason and understanding (b) unnecessary to understanding the world.
So the importance is
The related ideas of idea, language, concept, symbol, reason, argument, rationality, logic, fact, and science are in the world.
These ‘inclusions’ are significant.
As part of adaptation, organisms have natural interest in certain objects. A cheetah on an impala, an adult male on mature females. This has to do with such things as the perception ‘templates’, and ‘feeling’ induced by hormones
But conscious intentionality can enhance or override the animal level natural focus.
If consciousness is primitive intentionality arises in being aware of both external objects and consciousness and their relation (and is informed, of course, by animal focus).
The awareness of awareness is an example of mind being in the world and so itself an object.
In Philosophy of Logic, WV Quine gives the following example
The generalization of “Tom is mortal.” and “Dick is mortal.” is “All men are mortal.” (or “Some men are mortal.”).
But the generalization of “Either it is raining or it is not raining.” and “Either Tom is mortal or Tom is not mortal.” is “Every alternation of a sentence and its negation is true.”
In the first case the generalization is about things. In the second it is about sentences. This is called semantic ascent.
It is needed because “of the oblique way in which things over which we are generalizing are related”.
It is possible because sentences are things (in the world).
If ideas are not material and the world is material then the nature of ideas must be mysterious and we run into confusion, e.g. the contradiction there ideas but they do not exist.
If we admit ideas (consciousness) as part of the world we avoid this contradiction.
“Method overlaps content”, “Method is content—because mind and its process is in the world”.
Principles of reason and their application are not fully separate and we should not try to fully separate them.
But if there was no separation at all we would not use the phrase ‘principles of reason’.
Reason is knowledge of what makes knowledge valid and action effective. In this way, reason is application.
We learn about and refine reason in using it.
Reflection on the point reveals that no part of reason is in the absolute a priori.
We sometimes relegate such things as grammar, logic, mathematics, form, and reason to the absolute a priori.
But again, knowledge of knowledge-knowing and knowledge of the world-process are on the same footing.
There is no ‘a priori’ known to be absolute.
All knowledge is ‘empirical’ in the sense of ‘may be founded in experience’; this includes reason.
Therefore even logic is corrigible; except where shown otherwise.
Abstract entities are in the one universe.
The pure part of the Universal Metaphysics is perfect knowledge that is made possible because it employs concepts that sufficiently abstract that they may be known empirically and perfectly.
This pure metaphysics becomes potent and ultimate by recognizing that patterns or limits apply only to manifest being. Therefore there are no laws or limits to that nonmanifest realm that is the complement of manifest being.
We do not know what the next great physical theory will be.
We do know that envelope of all physical theory cannot exceed the pure metaphysics
Because the pure shows each pragmatic realm as limited, the latter need only be ‘good enough’ on the way to realizing the pure—and good enough is perfect for this purpose (and cannot be exceeded in any case).
The pure and the pragmatic have their own epistemologies; the pure is correspondence; the pragmatic is pragmatic; the dual epistemology meshes as perfect.
Here, ‘reason’ is roughly cause.
Formation, relation, interaction, generative forms are forms
Evolution, variation and selection, are efficient but not necessary mechanisms of formation. They are the source of dynamics and residual indeterminacy, coded as micro-form and form.
Pure empiricism, rationalism, concretism, and absolutism are absurd
While Beings have limits this is not remarkable
In dissolution into Being and Nonbeing, they shed their limits
Limits, patterns, forms, and laws are the same
While concretion occurs from Being and Nonbeing into beings, this is not merely accidental but is on the way to the concrete limitless (“infinite”).
Sentience is the essence of cosmology (extension, duration, variety, peak and peaking, and dissolution)