Naturally Unnatural

If we were simply rational, moral beings, we would not need to discuss the question of our rationality or morality. The words rational and moral would have no meaning to us: There would simply be invariably rational and moral conduct. If we did not have tendencies, say, to covet our neighbor’s wives and hold false gods before us, we would have no need of commandments.

To say that we are, or that we can be seen as at bottom irrational and amoral would not be to say that we are wholly incapable of rationality or morality, it would simply be to say that rationality and morality need to be learned, that they may prove useful or at some point necessary to a basically irrational and possibly even more basically amoral being, a being also entirely capable of making and embracing arbitrary assertions, and often unable to distinguish between arbitrary assertions and rational or moral ones. Those differing inclinations or capacities to think and act entirely irrationally or non-rationally and without reference to morality may even be good and useful things, since rational assertions may have no moral value at all or may seem to conflict with one or another strongly held moral assertion – or, to begin from the other side, since moral assertions may appear irrational from different perspectives. In short, the notion that we are moral and rational beings is at best an incomplete description of who and what we are. The logically more primary problem is that any insistence on a reasonable or non-arbitrary explanation of morality or moral pre-dispositions already pre-supposes essential rationality and natural morality.

We can accept that the postulate of fundamental arbitrariness is itself a postulate of a fundamental necessity (abitrariness as necessary),  and that the postulate of non-universality is also a postulate of a universality (non-universality as universal condition). Indication of such logical infirmity is a necessary retort against skepticism and its contemporary expression as post-modernism, but an incipient or recovered fundamentally natural assertion based on the status of the anti-natural assertion inherently being the assertion of a naturalism may not necessarily lead either to modern or to classical natural law. It isolates a contradiction in skepticism that can perhaps eventually be shown to re-produce certain indissoluble antinomies known in different forms for thousands of years, antinomies whose universality or inescapability suggest that they have at least as much a claim to the mantle of “natural” as innate rationality or morality.

Whether and, if so, exactly how natural antinomy would correspond to a dialectical essence – or essential non-essentiality – always still needs to be explicated.

6 comments on “Naturally Unnatural

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  1. If we were simply rational, moral beings…. would that necessitate that we simply and rationally would agree as to what is morally correct?

    • Rational and moral beings could not exist in an irrational universe without moral meaning. In a rational universe, the same causes always lead to the same effects. A rational being would always accept the dictates of reason, which would always be the same, given the same premises.

      For the same reason, two rational beings regarding the same facts would always arrive at the rationally necessary conclusion. If they reach different conclusions, then they must not be coping with the same facts. Likewise, if the moral sense is likewise universal, then two moral beings confronting the same facts will always draw the morally correct conclusion. For them to reach different conclusions rationally and morally would imply that at least one was morally or intellectually deranged, or that they were not really dealing with the same facts. So, either they will invariably reach the same, correct answers, or there must be some special, morally and rationally acceptable explanation for any apparent disagreement, or in some essential sense the rational and moral individuals are not actually disagreeing (are not really referring to the same situation).

      Can you give an example of a situation in which two simply rational and moral beings would disagree as to what is rationally and morally correct?

  2. —- In a rational universe, the same causes always lead to the same effects——

    and why would rational and moral beings be in agreement as to what the causes were and in which proportion?

    the world is complex, the interactions of billions extremely complex and infinite rationality does connote infinite intelligence.

    • You’re defining a universe as rational but unrationalizable. If rational but unrationalizable qualifes as rational, then to say that either the universe or a rational being was rational would for all intents and purposes no different from saying that either was irrational. That would be an irrational definition of rational. You would have no way of knowing – or rationally determining – what was arbitrary or random, and what happened by necessity. So there would be no way for a being to be rational in this non-rationalizable universe, at least in regard to its non-rationalizable portions or aspects. In that sense, the universe would be irrational for us, if in theory rational on its own terms, but there would be no way for us to operate within it as simply rational beings. We would always be at least partly non-rational or arbitrary in our actions or conclusions.

  3. nah…… you’re simply proposing a definition of rational that includes elements not necessary to the definition.

    • Don’t think so. The point of the proof is that human existence – existence at all – cannot be conceived on an irreducibly rational basis. Your burden would be prove that that would be possible.

      On the other hand, now that I take another look at your comment, I realize that I misread the third sentence, and don’t actually understand it. Did you garble it, or, if you didn’t garble it, can you break it down, and maybe explain its relevance? I think the last part was intended to say that rationally understanding an infinitely complex universe, or completely understanding any event within it, would require infinite intelligence, but I’m not sure that we need to understand any particular event or the entire universe in all details in order to define a shared adequate understanding of it. Understand, I actually agree that this complexity problem does pose another difficulty for the theory of innate rationality and morality. I’m just not sure that the a proponent of natural rationality and morality would find the complexity problem insuperable.

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