Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Rationality and Common Sense

A lot of people involved in science are accused of lacking common sense. That is because, in science, you are told not to use common sense. It is known as bias. Instead you are told to only approach things from a purely rational, and purely factual, standpoint, of what can be proven and verified.

What is a more valid guide to reality: Rationality or common sense? I've known someone who spoke highly in favor of common sense who was a Mormon. And history shows that common sense takes all kinds of forms, from the long-held idea that divine right of kings under God was common sense to the contemporary American idea that a money-driven society is.

Rationality can also take all sorts of wrongful directions. The behaviorists and the lobotomists thought that they were rational, but they were wrong. Freudians think that they are rational, but they are also wrong. And the people who think that spirituality, mysticism and religion are for loonies and idiots are also wrong, however rational they consider themselves to be.

However that's not the end of the story. Good things have come out of common sense, such as effective business and political practices. And good things have also come out of rationality, such as science and technology. Both modalities are capable of both rightful and wrongful outcomes; and it becomes the matter of separating what's right in each from what's wrong in each.

One of the most effective people I've known was a World War II colonel who then became a distinguished scientist. He was strong in both common sense and rationality, and he became a very effective and very successful man. Yet even he had problems. When I talked to him, he was going on about how he could not figure out women. We see here the shortcomings of both mentalities.

Is it possible to rationally figure out women? My personal belief is that it is possible to rationally figure out anything, even God. But it involves doing more than simply assaying. It requires extending yourself to the point that you are feeling the next person's experience and are supplementing both rationality and common sense with subjective experience.

What am I talking about? Well consider this. De Tocqueville was able to write highly insightful work about America. He was a Frenchman who had lived in America. He saw it from without, and he experienced it from within. As a result of this he had a complete, integrative, picture of America; and he was able to understand both the experience of the participants and what it looked like from without.

I have had Christian people tell me that I would not be able to understand Christianity unless I became a Christian. I became a Christian, and that lead to insight into the workings of Christianity. As someone who has for a long time in my life not been a Christian, I retain the assessment that I've had of Christianity before and can understand both the internal experience and the external effects.

Modalities - all modalities - have the capacity for both correct outcomes and error. And one way to maximize the potential for correct outcomes and reduce the potential for incorrect outcomes is to combine the modalities. Both rationality and common sense - as well as any number of other approaches, such as artistic inspiration and spiritual revelation - have a way of reducing each other's potentials for error through an introduction of an external perspective. And the best results are achieved through having all these perspectives combined.


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