Tag Archives: skepticism

Rational/Emotional Logic

A friend “wrote an entry”:http://fadingdust.wordpress.com/2007/02/01/its-all-in-your-head yesterday that got me thinking – the natural state of so-called ‘rational thinkers’ is, at best, skepticism and, at worst, out-right cynicism and condescension. The rational thinker realizes that there is always something more to learn, something more to know. He realizes that never in his life will he be able to get his mind around everything there is to know and experience; he realizes that any conclusion he comes to is going to be prone to error. Every fact and tidbit is subject to revision as more data is received, processed, and catalogued. Doubt and uncertainty become, to some extent, a way of life because everything the rationalist knows is subject to change, given the right sort of revelations (usually involving new things coming from the scientific community).

So it’s ironic, then, that the more knowledge one possesses, the less rational that person can become. Human beings are, by their very natures, emotional creatures. Everything we do and think involves an emotional factor, an _irrational_ reaction that rationality by itself often cannot predict or counter. Because everything the rationalist knows can be called into question, can be subject to revision, there is an inherent emotional stressor (called doubt) present that often goes unidentified, one that, if left unchecked, can actually undermine the very process of rational thought.

The rationalist attempts to logically work his way through a problem area, using critical thinking as his primary tool. He works from a set of “presuppositions”:http://open-dialogue.com/blog/2007/01/26/presuppositionalism-science-and-faith/ based on those bits of knowledge he already possesses and has been able to fit together, leaving any of them open to revision in the event he finds that the new information he has just gleaned sheds some new light on any of those beliefs. He neglects, however, to account for the seemingly random emotional factor, disregarding it as unimportant exactly _because_ it is not ‘rational.’ So, when he is faced with a confrontational factor during this rational process, he is frequently unable to deal with it and locks down his rational system, ultimately by walling himself behind those things he already believes and sees as ‘safe’ and solid because those are the things he has already worked through and believes to be true. As a result any information that was presented in a confrontational manner is disregarded as illogical and irrational – whether or not it actually is – because it evoked an adverse, stressful emotional response. This decision is typically reinforced when it is philosophical in nature, when it is something that rational science cannot itself examine directly.

The presupposed way of thinking is, therefore, reinforced – it’s safe and does not make the rational thinker _feel_ stressed or upset. It is ordered, structured, logical and is thus deemed to be the better conclusion of the two.

Sometimes, then, rational thinking can, in fact, be an emotional reaction and therefore be the more irrational of the two. True rational thought should recognize the presence of emotion and not only prevent it from ruling the thought process but should take it into account and even integrate it.

Skepticism, cynicism, and disillusionment

I’ve been picking up a vibe lately. Well, it’s actually been a lot longer than just lately, but I’ve really been thinking about it a lot lately. Is it ever alright to be skeptical? Cynical? And just to further add fuel to the fire, what happens when a person becomes jaded? Disillusioned? Disenchanted? More specifically, what happens when any of these states of mind creep into our Christian life and walk, into our churches, into our testimonies? What causes them? Are they good or bad? If they are good, how do we take full advantage of them? If they are bad, how do we correct them?

Just for kicks, I actually went out and looked these words up. Here ya’ go:

skepticism:
1. A doubting or questioning attitude or state of mind; dubiety. See Synonyms at uncertainty.
2. Philosophy.
A. The ancient school of Pyrrho of Elis that stressed the uncertainty of our beliefs in order to oppose dogmatism.
B. The doctrine that absolute knowledge is impossible, either in a particular domain or in general.
C. A methodology based on an assumption of doubt with the aim of acquiring approximate or relative certainty
3. Doubt or disbelief of religious tenets.

cynicism:
1. An attitude of scornful or jaded negativity, especially a general
distrust of the integrity or professed motives of others: the public
cynicism aroused by governmental scandals.

2. A scornfully or jadedly negative comment or act: “She arrived at a
philosophy of her own, all made up of her private notations and
cynicisms” (Henry James).

Since the word ‘jaded’ was referenced in this last definition, I had to look it up.

jaded:

1. Worn out; wearied: “My father’s words had left me jaded and depressed” (William Styron).

2. Dulled by surfeit; sated: “the sickeningly sweet life of the amoral, jaded, bored upper classes” (John Simon).

3. Cynically or pretentiously callous.

And since I’ve been seeing a lot of disillusioned Christians, I felt obligated to look this one up as well.

disillusioned:
1. The act of disenchanting.

2. The condition or fact of being disenchanted.

Don’t you just love when a definition doesn’t really define the word? Try this. I think you might be surprised:

disenchanted:
To free from illusion or false belief; undeceive.

I don’t think most of us actually use the word ‘disenchanted’ to mean this, so I was surprised when I actually looked it up. Sadly, I fear that there are many Christians who believe there is a need to be ‘freed’ from Christian beliefs.

As always this post is mirrored over on my forum, so please feel free to mirror any comments there, as well.