Reflections on Aphorisms #72

Short reflection today because I’ve been bad about getting started in a timely fashion. Fortunately some of my bigger time crunches are getting done soon, so it shouldn’t be an issue for much longer.

Aphorism 110

Reason is God’s gift; but so are the passions: reason is as guilty as passion.

John Henry Newman

Interpretation

One of the things that I think people overlook about reason is the fact that it’s a neurochemical process.

Now, that’s not to say that I don’t believe that there’s more to the brain than just chemistry; I’m a religious man, and that means that I have some belief in our humanity stretching deeper than we can know.

However, I’m also not ignorant of science, and I know that a lot of how our brain works is basically electricity and chemicals.

A lot of what we consider to be really important to us is nothing more than a function that’s going on. Our emotions, for instance, seem highly driven by our brain chemistry. Consciousness is a little more complicated, which is part of the reason we don’t understand it very much.

Even so, we’d be foolish to assume that our own biological limitations are not in play with every act of reason.

One of the things that I am kind of fixated on is the idea that we’re heuristic beings. We work based off of slapdash jury-rigging, cognitively speaking, and we don’t have a whole lot of self-awareness for what’s carefully considered and what is a hack to get through the day alive.

Like, think of phobias. If you can’t do certain things, you’re at a distinct disadvantage, but it’s also really useful for your brain to just out-and-out say “I’m not a fan of dark places” when you’re thinking about going into a dark place, because you don’t know what danger’s there.

Reason may exist on a level above the heuristic, but it’s still drawn from it. Deliberately thinking about things can let us achieve a new perspective, but it’s the same pair of eyes feeding those observations as feed our intuition.

The other day I shared a diagram in which I pointed out that there’s basically three fundamental parts to the universe as it pertains to us : the predictable future, the expected unknown, and the entirely unknown.

The predictable future is what our heuristics and reason try to grasp, and reason goes a step further into the expected unknown.

The problem with reason is that it can only turn unknown to expected unknown, rather than unknown into predictable future.

Never forget that our limitations are a lot more than they look. We’re basically miracle boxes, but even then we’re squishy ones with not a whole lot of stored information.

Resolution

Don’t forget to evaluate my assumptions.

The unknown remains the unknown, even if you think you’ve figured it out. Don’t assume there’s a fundamental difference between its two states.

Go fast when the heuristics are good.

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