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February 14, 2014 / compassioninpolitics

The Emotional Void of Hyper-Rationalism & Reductive Materialist Philosophy

Here’s a little bit of my correspondence on Quora in a thread about thinking….

1) I think the materialist who forgives though always has a reason to hege his bet based on probability. Forgiveness never being complete or only in the case that it puts dollars in his wallet, when the dollars run out…suddenly forgiveness does too. Perhaps there are other materialists who do forgive….but not because they are materialist….but because they have other value frameworks and worldviews they are operating under. Also, the servant leadership and sacrifice….never possible with a band of materialists. Sure, materialists could have supported the war, but our boys gave their hearts….and a materialist is prone to hege his/her bets or to conditionally be sacrificial–not 100%. I haven’t seen Magnolia in a while. Not all materialists subscribe to the Magnolian philosophy, however.

2) You give great cortisol hardly makes a great Valentines day card…..and even worse art or poetry. Relationship fail. From a materialist perspective we can do Nozicks experience machine and functionally be no different. There’s still unpredictability about humans and personality….which a stat sheet or a spreadsheet can’t account for. There’s a certain inexpressibility–a feeling or experience. Even analogies and metaphors just fail. And in that case…numbers and A leads to B causality certainly does.

3) Kant was an idealist and believed in transcendence I believe. When you have a religious experience or when you experience sublime or when you experience a particular type of love–its just more expressable in a language of feeling and depth and connection rather than 1s and Os. If you have the formula for love I’d certainly love to have it….and so would ever venture capitalist ever. And not fake love–not artificial love–not the astroturf kind…..I mean REAL love–I mean head over heels kinda love. Also, what chemical caused Whitman to write such expressive poetry as the Apple iPad commercial? Sure, you may have numbers on those charts….but they aren’t necessarily meaningful numbers. Plus, I think there’s something about the connection between free will (choice/autonomy) and love. I don’t believe science or neurochemistry will reach love anymore than a fake Gucci bag reaches Gucci. Or a Kindle is an iPad. They just aren’t the same.

4) I’m not sure what objection to Jesus you had or anyone would have for that matter. Jesus was truth, love, and forgiveness. He was brotherhood/sisterhood, community, service, and grace.

5) We don’t know what tomorrow will hold. Every action toward the future is an act of faith. According to materialism…belief in ideas of all sorts is a form of faith.

6) The over-commitment to rationality leads to irrationality. If you don’t have virtue and/or other values or frameworks to serve as a check rationality runs into problems when pushed to the extreme (i.e. someone who truly applies accam’s razor 100% of the time or doesn’t have the ability to embrace the humanity rather than the test tube, the spreadsheet, or the equation.)

7) The attempt to totally eliminate emotion or feeling from our vocabulary, from our lives, or from our decision-making would literally cause us not to be human and would literally eliminate large parts of the brain (not to mention heart and gut–whatever biologically causes that vernacular). We would turn into robots….or Spock….or data. Sorry, I’ll take my current life over that. Spock pretty much can only watch emotion occur from afar….he doesn’t know what it is or how to deal with it close up–except at the level of syllogism and equations. That misses far, far, far, far too much of the human experience. Wonder, curiosity, and Disney world all go down the tubes. Thats not a world I want to live in…..or really contemplate actually.

8) Emotion + reason = integrative logic. It allows us to integrate the hemispheres.

PS. Grace is fairly analogous to forgiveness.

PSS. I think I got everything in…I’m not honestly sure. But I think thats enough for now


1) We’re probably in pretty close agreement on this one. I would say the reason for that has to do with character and integrity–but also the necessity of forgiveness and grace. All of which have problems from a pure scientific point of view–which is materialist in orientation.

2) But not as a be all end all tool. Even innovation is driven by forward-looking thought and hope (for instance futurists aren’t scientists proper–you can see the work of Pierce on the topic of abductive logic). Remember ideas aren’t material.

3) Well, I would say much of what my faith tells me is also affirmed in places like Aristotle. I don’t see how a New Testament Christian (aka Jesus follower) would really be all the objectionable to you. Also, the reason why prejudice is bad….comes from a faith-based commitment to human dignity. It was on a faith basis that we have to consent to experiments being performed on us–that things like nuclear experiments and Tuskeegee can’t happen any more. Period. Those are all grounded in the intrinsic value and human dignity of people founded on the work of Immanuel Kant and the Biblical tradition.

Thats not what I said–you’re mischaracterizing what I said. Thats not a fair characterization of God. He’s probably quite busy and if he’s not quite busy, He probably deserves a little rest.

And your objection is easily answered by free will or the theodicy on suffering.

And your objection completely forgets the role of Jesus. Jesus died for the sins of the world–for my sins–for your sins.

The I don’t like the God of the Old Testament objection seems to fail on three accounts:
1) It abstracts one part from the character of God and assumes it is the whole in some respects–without looking at it in full context.
2) It misunderstands why physical pain is necessary for maturity and development–both character and spiritual development. Trials on earth prepare us to be better later–it also draws us further in relationship to those around us and to God (suffering as God’s megaphone–CS Lewis).
3) It misses Jesus.

I happen to prefer a life with meaning, choice, and purpose to the one with no choice (determinism or robots or de-contexualization or leveling of what makes us human.) Naturalism says we are fundamentally animals–theology and the Christian faith–says we’re more and that there’s hope for more. A naturalist philosophy would in turn treat us like animals–or bouncing chemicals–or machines or robots–rather than fully emotional beings who have choice, intention, etc..

Robot love or relationship isn’t really worthwhile. Free will is the basis for love, relationship, responsibility, and character. Its only on this basis that you can develop a worthy and intelligible worldview. Naturalism, reductionism, et. al. ultimately falls on this fundamental gap–this fatal flaw

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