Rationality and Totality, Part III
If we associate rationality with totality, it must be because we suspect rationality contributes to this enclosing action—that rationality, rather than being liberating, helps to radically restrict human freedom. Therefore, valuing our freedom, we might not embrace a rational political policy or program no matter how efficient or effective. It’d be totalitarian. We can’t be expected to rationally demonstrate this is a “rational” fear if what we fear is rationality itself, can we? And yet most of us would distrust our distrust if we couldn’t make more of a case for it than, “I don’t know why, but I don’t feel good about this,” even though most of us will give our intuition some credibility.
Is there some sense in which rationality is enclosing—self-enclosing? This leads me to the question I really want to ask: what are we doing when we reason about reason? What are the prospects in doing so? Do we have the prospect of overcoming reason by doing so? Do we have the prospect of sharpening and improving reason this way? Do we learn about reason by reasoning about reason? Is it possible to get outside of reason and get a perspective or an angle on reason through reasoning? That doesn’t seem very likely to me because we are still within the realm of reason if we are still using reason, even if we are using reason on reason. Therefore, if our only manner of evaluating reason is through reason, if we are to be rational, we cannot leave reason. If the only manner of evaluating reason is through reason and we are to be rational, then rationality is enclosing.
I’ve often wondered about Freud: was he a rationalist? Was Freud a rationalist who wished to reason about the irrational, about the irrational aspects of life and the psyche? But I have had to note—Freud doesn’t merely reason about the irrational—he doesn’t even primarily reason. He primarily collects data. He engages in empirical studies. He then fits this empirical data to various provisional theories. This “fitting of the data” appears reasonable to me—I think it is rational. But the theories do not fall or give way because of reasoning about this reasoning…They fall or give way due to their relationship to the data. In other words, Freud reasons as a scientist; scientists’ reasoning is not enclosing in the same way as the reasoning of anyone who considers nothing but reasoning.
What is recalcitrance to data? Does rationalism contribute to recalcitrance to data or ameliorate (alleviate) it?