The Rational Human Condition 1, Preface and General Introduction, Section 1.7–An Important Worry and a Preliminary Reply.


THE RATIONAL HUMAN CONDITION, PART 1

PREFACE AND GENERAL INTRODUCTION

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Section 1.0  What It Is

Section 1.1  Bounded in a Nutshell

Section 1.2  Rational Anthropology vs. Analytic Metaphysics, the Standard Picture, and Scientific Naturalism

Section 1.3  Philosophy and Its History: No Deep Difference

Section 1.4  Works of Philosophy vs. Philosophical Theories: Presentational Hylomorphism and Polymorphism

Section 1.5  Analytic Philosophy, Continental Philosophy, and Rational Anthropology

Section 1.6  What is a Rational Human Animal?

Section 1.7  An Important Worry and a Preliminary Reply

Section 1.8  The Biggest Windmills


In the fullness of time, The Rational Human Condition will also appear as a series of five e-books published by Rounded Globe, each of which, in turn, will be available in hard copy, on demand, from Out of House Publishing.


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THE RATIONAL HUMAN CONDITION, PART 1

PREFACE AND GENERAL INTRODUCTION

Section 1.7  An Important Worry and a Preliminary Reply

Here’s an important worry about what I am arguing and philosophically trying to do in The Rational Human Condition:

“So you are saying that reality must and does conform to the phenomenology of our conscious experience of ourselves as rational human animals, real human persons, and to the specific details of our fundamental self-conception? OK. But even if you are correct about the structure and details of our phenomenology and our fundamental self-conception, then obviously there is no direct inference from our phenomenology and our fundamental self-conception to reality, since equally obviously we could be systematically deceived or mistaken about that. In other words, an ‘error-theory’ might well be true about our phenomenology and our fundamental self-conception: so reality need not and might not conform to them.”[i]

Yes, clearly I need to say something in reply to this objection before getting the project of rational anthropology properly underway.

I agree completely that there is no logically valid inference from the phenomenology of our conscious experience of ourselves as rational human animals, real human persons, and from our fundamental self-conception, to reality as such.

So as a matter of logical possibility, reality need not and might not conform to our phenomenology and to our fundamental self-conception.

Nevertheless, I do regard our phenomenology and our fundamental self-conception as genuine, primitive, philosophical data and evidence, along with other kinds of data and evidence of course, especially including all the formal constraints and correct information provided by logic, mathematics, and the basic natural sciences.

Then, in full view of those formal constraints and that correct information, my project in these four books is to say what both rational human animals and also the real world would have to be like if our phenomenology and our fundamental self-conception were to be truly indicative of reality.

This, in turn, allows me to transfer the burden of philosophical proof back to my critic:

“If my account is intelligible and coherent, and if it conforms to the formal and natural sciences at least as well as the other competing accounts do, and if it provides cogent criticisms of the alternative competing accounts — then which is a better overall explanation:

(1) my account, which faithfully preserves all the appearances, including all our basic rational human animal and real-human-person-oriented values, or

(2) the theory that we are systematically deceived by or mistaken about reality and about ourselves?

In other words, should we have the metaphysical, cognitive, epistemic, and moral courage of our own convictions in our own rational human animality, our own real human personhood, or should we be deflationists, nihilists, and radical skeptics?”

I think it is gob-smackingly obvious that “impartial reason,” to the extent that this is humanly possible, would strongly favor my account.

This is because the “debunking strategy” and/or “error-theory” alternative is itself clearly self-refuting, or at least clearly self-stultifying.

And although this self-refuting or anyhow self-stultifying character is not generally true of debunking strategies and/or error-theories, it is nevertheless a gob-smacking consequence of debunking strategies and/or error-theories about human rationality.

What I mean is that if it were true that we are systematically deceived and mistaken about the nature of reality and about ourselves as rational human animals, real human persons, then why would the debunking strategy and/or error-theory themselves, as theories, be any more likely to be correct than any other arbitrarily-chosen strategy and/or theory, given that the debunking strategy and/or error-theory are of course themselves the products of human rationality?

Indeed, the debunking strategy and/or error-theory projects as applied to human rationality simply make no sense at the end of the day.

For they presuppose and use a metaphysically, epistemically, and normatively robust human capacity or power for cognitive and practical rationality in order to attempt to prove the metaphysical, epistemic, and normative bankruptcy of human rationality.

So they are trying to prove rationally that we are really incapable of rationally proving anything.

This is just cognitive suicide, or at the very least, cognitive self-stultification.

Hence it is even more than merely “impartially reasonable” to hold that any debunking strategy and/or error-theory as applied to human rationality is self-refuting or self-stultifying — it is also epistemically, metaphysically, morally, and vitally imperative for us to debunk the debunking strategies and/or error-theories by demonstrating their vicious circularity.

As I noted in passing earlier, Kant wrote in the B edition Preface to the Critique of Pure Reason that “I had to deny scientific knowing (Wissen) in order to make room for faith (Glauben)” (CPR Bxxx).

He was not talking about so-called “blind faith,” if by that one means a rationally unjustified faith.

What he meant was that he had to deny the putatively unbounded scope of scientific knowledge, in order to make room for moral certainty (CPR A828–829/B856–857).

Kantian moral certainty, moreover, is not merely the kind of purely ethical moral certainty that flows from practical freedom and autonomy, but also, and perhaps more surprisingly, the kind of religious moral certainty that Pascal was seeking to induce or trigger by means of his so-called “Wager,” and that Kierkegaard also called “the leap.”

Similarly, we must ourselves deny the debunking strategies and /or error-theories in order to make room for human reason’s moral certainty about its own rationality-project, in all its dimensions.

That sort of cognitive and practical circularity, whereby human reason freely and fully commits itself to itself and its own fundamental rational human project, is entirely benign, indeed self-supporting, and flows from our own nature.

NOTES

[i] Many thanks to the undergraduate participants in the 2009 Colorado Summer Seminar in Philosophy, for forcefully pressing this objection. Only the four-book project as a whole can offer a fully compelling response to it. But given the importance of the worry, a preliminary reply is needed too.


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