You know G.K. Chesterton once said that “common sense” should be referred to as “uncommon sense”, because it is one of the least common things in the world. I believe that Chesterton was right on the money. I have written about relativism, and how little sense it makes, more than once on this blog. Now, it appears, there is something new to discuss.
I want to discuss what I like to call “rationalizing against rationalization”. There are those who do not accept any kind of proof that comes from rationalizing. The argument goes that everyone rationalizes, or thinks, differently. Hence, just because something sems true to my way of rationalizing doesn’t make it true. Therefore, no argument can be decided by rationalizing. There must some outside proof for either side to prove their point.
I agree with this to some extent. Human rationalization is not necessarily definitive proof in any debate. If such were the case, then relativism would be true. People like Nietzsche could find ways to rationalize atheism, and the idea that “might makes right”. So rationalization is not definitive proof. I do not agree, however, with the idea that rationalizing can not give significant weight to one position or another.
In a debate one can use rationality to prove many things. Things like proving God exists; proving we exist; proving evil exists; etc. Is the proof 100%? Of course not, but neither is empirical proof. In fact, in this universe of constant flux, can we really ever have 100% proof of anything? No, yet, rationality can provide enough proof to give us no reasonable doubt about a topic.
For example, we can prove beyond any reasonable doubt that God exists through rationality. Oh sure, many will dispute this by citing the many atheists throughout history. Yet, proving there are those who dissent by rationalizing differently is not the same thing as proving that nothing can be confidently demonstrated through rationalizing because others “rationalize” differently. Actually, others “rationalizing” differently would seem to prove our rationalization. It is the same as saying the exception proves the rule. In any case, dissent from one rationalization does not disprove it.
The most convincing argument against “rationalizing against rationalization” is the fact that this “philosophy”, if you will, is an absolute. It’s no different than saying that rationality absolutely can not be used in an argument, because it proves absolutely nothing, due to the fact that others rationalize differently.
For one, to refuse to rationalize is to refuse to think logically. To refuse to think logically is no different than refusing to think at all. Without the use of logic, our thought becomes animalistic. It would be more akin to instinct. Logic allows humans to think abstractly, in a way animals can not.
Secondly, if it is true that rationalizing is useless in argumentation, then not rationalizing is equally useless. In fact, the very argument that rationalizing in arguments is useless is, itself, equally useless, because this type of argument is a rationalization! The one making such a comment has, in fact, rationalized that rationalization is useless. Hence, such an individual has contradicted his own argument.
It is equally fruitless to say that one can prove nothing, because this universe is in a state of constant change. Things we thought we knew are changing all the time. Thus, everything we think we know now may one day be proven false.
If we can know nothing for sure, then how can we even accurately know that we can know nothing for sure? This argument makes absolutely no sense. Plus, the fact that we can even debate over whether or not we can know anything proves that we exist. If we didn’t exist, then we could not even have this debate! So we know we can at least know one thing.
Even though this universe is in a state of constant flux, it still exists. It is still real. Something real doesn’t have to be unchanging. In fact, the fact that we change proves we exist. If we didn’t exist, then we could not change. Furthermore, our constant state of flux proves the existence of an unchanging God.
All change in the universe is caused by something that is unaffected by the change it causes. It stands to reason, therefore, that change itself must have a cause which is constant. This we call God.
See, rationalizing can prove something. Rationality just demonstrated the futility of “rationalizing against rationalization”. After all, one must use rationality in order to rationalize against rationality! So keep rationalizing.
Peace in Christ,
David J. Pollard
Worldwide Catholic Solidarity