Positive Humanism: A Primer

“Balance” Does Not Have To Mean Being Irrational

Why would anyone be anti-rationality, anti-critical thinking, or anti-reason?  The answer has to do with people’s misunderstandings of what these terms mean, and more to the point, what they do not mean.  This problem could best be understood by thinking of the highly logical but images-5emotionally void “Spock” character in Star Trek.  I have heard too many people justify superstitious, irrational, and faith-based beliefs as a way to “balance” their humanity by experiencing life on a more emotional or “spiritual” level.  These people are half right, and half wrong.  They are right in that a life devoid of emotion, imagination, and passion is not much of a life at all.  They are wrong in believing that these experiences require the suspension of rationality, the need to embrace the supernatural, or the need to believe something disproportionate to the evidence.

Kicking Old Ladies

I can best explain why this “balance” hypothesis is a bad one through an analogy. It is safe to say that most people would agree that morality is a good thing. That is doing what is right and good over what is wrong and bad.  We would not claim that we should “balance” our morality with immorality.  In order to embrace our humanity, we don’t need to kick an old lady every week and rob a bank once a year.  We strive to live moral imgres-1lives and any deviation from that path is considered a wrong turn.  But what about brushing our teeth, going for a walk, listening to music, or the countless other actions that are not considered “moral?”  To claim that because an action is not moral, then it must be immoral, is not only wrong, but fallacious reasoning (i.e., a false dichotomy).  Actions can also be amoral, which means there is no moral value associated with the action.  When we scratch our head, sneeze, or do push-ups, we are not acting immorally, we are simply engaging in amoral actions.  We are not required to behave immorally when our behavior does not require morality.

Arationality: Neither Rational Nor Irrational

Awe, elation, and love are some of the most meaningful human experiences that are not results of reason, rationality, or critical thinking.  However, this does not mean they are the result of being unreasonable, irrational, or using poor thinking.  These are what philosopher Rosalind Hursthouse refers to as arational processes (Hursthouse, 1991), or experiences that are not subject to rational scrutiny.  This confusion leads to problems that arise when an arational experience is confused with an irrational belief based on that experience.

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