73. Some Uses and Misuses of Reason

rationa2When can the use of rea­son lead to bet­ter lives and soci­eties, and when can it under­mine them?

Thor May
Bris­bane, 2014

Think­ing point: The Aus­tralian Attor­ney Gen­eral, George Bran­dis has just declared that argu­ments for cli­mate change are irra­tional and that those who assert it should take a lesson from Voltaire … http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/climate-change-proponents-using-mediaeval-tactics-george-brandis-20140418-zqwfc.html#ixzz2zDYtpzHx

Pref­ace: This is a dis­cus­sion paper, not a researched aca­d­e­mic doc­u­ment. The read­ing list at the end is mostly a col­lec­tion of con­tem­po­rary links from the Inter­net and pretty acci­den­tal, not edited for qual­ity. Where a topic is of broad gen­eral inter­est comes up with friends, I have adopted the prac­tice of post­ing dis­cus­sion starters like the present one on Academia.edu in the hope that oth­ers might also find them worth think­ing about.


1.  Islands of Rea­son and the deep blue sea between


When the sun rises each morn­ing we may say the rea­son is that the earth on its ellip­ti­cal orbit spins so that one point faces that star. Or we may say that the Sun God has mounted his char­iot. Or we may say, after Ptolemy and the Chris­tian elders until a few cen­turies ago, that the sun is mov­ing around the earth. Take your pick. They have all seemed good rea­sons from rea­son­able men in their time. Our accep­tance of what passes for rea­soned argu­ment has a great deal to do with the com­pany we keep. Per­haps for most peo­ple, the word of accepted author­ity is the ulti­mate para­me­ter on where those rea­soned argu­ments may ven­ture.

No man is an island”, John Donne told us 500 years ago. He had rea­son to believe that. In John Donne’s world of Jacobean Eng­land, when they thought about it most men and women still saw them­selves as instru­ments of a divine spirit, dumb com­puter ter­mi­nals as it were, des­tined to exe­cute the will of an unseen god (Bou­ton 1991). Yet that was also the begin­ning of an age when oth­ers, cau­tiously at first, turned to dif­fer­ent prin­ci­ples and expla­na­tions for action, pat­terns of order in nature which they called sci­ence and on which they brought to bear their fac­ul­ties of rea­son.

John Donne him­self was an extra­or­di­nar­ily capa­ble man, a poet, courtier, diplo­mat, and even­tu­ally Dean of St Pauls Cathe­dral in Lon­don. Could it not seem a para­dox then that he was one of God’s dumb com­puter ter­mi­nals, some­how sep­a­rated from the ‘Age of Rea­son’ or ‘Age of Enlight­en­ment’ which saw its first expres­sion in Europe through re-trans­la­tion and rein­ter­pre­ta­tion of the Chris­tian Bible itself, then through new, sys­tem­atic obser­va­tions in astron­omy, med­i­cine and physics. This was also when world­wide nav­i­ga­tion forced insu­lar Euro­peans to con­front entirely dif­fer­ent civ­i­liza­tions, and when thinkers, econ­o­mists and philoso­phers began to make explicit and ques­tion the very foun­da­tions of the social con­tract between the rulers and the ruled. Not least, it was when excep­tion­ally sys­tem­atic minds turned Nature against itself by cre­at­ing a tech­nol­ogy of pre­ci­sion engi­neer­ing and self-pow­ered machi­nes. Or does this ques­tion about John Donne’s mind reveal a fun­da­men­tal mis­un­der­stand­ing of the nature of rea­son in human think­ing?

Could it not rather be that “rea­son” is not some iconic dis­cov­ery of an his­tor­i­cal period, but rather is a set of tools avail­able to all human beings, and per­haps in more restricted ways to other ani­mals? If so, then we would have to ask a) what pre­cisely these tools of rea­son are; b) whether their use is com­mon or uncom­mon; c) whether their use is a mat­ter of choice, or invol­un­tary; d) if choices are made, when are the tools of rea­son put aside, or at least some selec­tion of them; e) what alter­na­tives humans have to the exer­cise of rea­son, and when these alter­na­tives are engaged.

Answers to the pre­ced­ing ques­tions have been posed in many trea­tises, and answered with elab­o­rate argu­ments. This is a short essay, and the treat­ment here will be quite dis­cur­sive rather than sys­tem­atic.

Let us begin with the obser­va­tion that maybe all of us have accused oth­ers of being irra­tional. This usu­ally means that a sec­ond party is act­ing in ways for which we can see no clear moti­va­tion, or which seem con­trary to the inter­ests of the actor. In other words, accu­sa­tions of irra­tional­ity may amount to no more than a com­mu­ni­ca­tion fail­ure between actors. Of course, the prob­lem may also be that you are fac­tor­ing in vari­ables and rela­tion­ships which the other per­son is not aware of, or which they dis­count as unim­por­tant. This is quite dif­fer­ent from say­ing that a per­son is inca­pable of rea­son­ing at all. 

It is improb­a­ble that any infant inca­pable of rea­son­ing at some level could sur­vive to adult­hood. That is, if the word “rea­son” implies a per­son draw­ing prac­ti­cal con­clu­sions at some sur­vival level of sophis­ti­ca­tion from their inner expe­ri­ence and outer obser­va­tions, then it is some­thing which we can all do. The meth­ods by which indi­vid­u­als achieve this may or may not be clear to them or us, but as social crea­tures we will eval­u­ate the pub­lic out­comes.

In cer­tain con­texts we may assess the appli­ca­tion of rea­son in terms of, say, the laws of Boolean logic, but it is not self-evi­dent that this kind of logic is the only path to rea­son­able out­comes, espe­cially for indi­vid­u­als. Many choices are based on “instinct”, “the smell test”, whether it “seems right”. These so-called instinc­tual choices seem to draw on sub­con­scious assess­ments which might some­times be quite reli­able, although they are also noto­ri­ously influ­enced by prej­u­dice and fash­ion. It can be exas­per­at­ing for those given to explicit log­i­cal argu­ment to be faced with implaca­ble oppo­si­tion from some­one blithely con­fi­dent of their “instinct”. The reverse also applies. The impli­ca­tion seems to be that at least in social and polit­i­cal life, we have to find a rea­son­able way, apart from coer­cion, to deal with oth­ers who are not amenable to our prob­lem solv­ing strate­gies.

Even when issues which require a rea­soned response are approached con­sciously and delib­er­a­tively, the unavoid­able bound­aries of that rea­son­ing may be beyond the abil­ity of a per­son to man­age. The real­ity is that soci­eties pose such com­plex prob­lems that we del­e­gate many deci­sions to oth­ers who spe­cial­ize in a par­tic­u­lar field. We may accept pre-pack­aged solu­tions for­mu­lated by oth­ers to even the most per­sonal dilem­mas, and for even very fun­da­men­tal ques­tions such as “the mean­ing of life”. In other words a vast amount of deci­sion mak­ing is based on trust, par­tic­u­larly trust in author­ity.

Trust in author­ity itself may become a moral cri­te­rion and bound­ary for rea­soned argu­ment amongst those who depend upon it exces­sively, such as mem­bers of the dis­ci­plined ser­vices, reli­gious fun­da­men­tal­ists, and many peo­ple of a con­ser­v­a­tive mind­set. Where pub­lic trust is almost absent – and there are such soci­eties – social and polit­i­cal inter­ac­tion is much less effi­cient.

Most humans can rea­son well enough to find their way to an avail­able food sup­ply when they are hun­gry, whether it is the fridge down­stairs, or an edi­ble plant in the forest. Most humans, but not all, can rea­son well enough to main­tain non-lethal rela­tion­ships over an extended period with the peo­ple around them, even under try­ing cir­cum­stances. This almost cer­tainly implies cal­cu­lated adjust­ments and con­ces­sions on their part. Many humans, but by no means all, can rea­son well enough to main­tain the com­plex behav­iours which make pos­si­ble obtain­ing and hold­ing down jobs in an advanced post-indus­trial soci­ety. Only some humans acquire the skills to con­sciously rea­son within the con­texts of var­i­ous sci­en­tific mod­els and for­mal sys­tems of math­e­mat­ics. Few humans, if any, can offer a per­son­ally for­mu­lated, com­plete, non-mag­i­cal ratio­nale for why, or even how we exist at all as a species. 

It seems then that we always apply the tools of rea­son to restricted frames of ref­er­ence or islands of cir­cum­stance. We are not nec­es­sar­ily con­sis­tent in the way we apply those same tools to dif­fer­ent islands of cir­cum­stance, either pub­licly or pri­vately, either simul­ta­ne­ously or over time. That is, our behav­iours are often con­tra­dic­tory and our thoughts con­fused. At some deep philo­soph­i­cal level, it is not even obvi­ous that we are the same per­son at all times. Occa­sion­ally a person’s frag­mented men­tal state becomes a clin­i­cal issue, but many philoso­phers since ancient times, East and West, have also noted that for every­one “I”, ego, is not a sin­gle or sta­ble entity (see Thor May 1994 for a more detailed dis­cus­sion), and of course Plutarch’s ancient “ship of The­seus” para­dox raises the dilemma of whether we are the same indi­vid­ual, rea­soned to be sin­gu­larly cul­pa­ble, at 20 years of age and at 60 when every cell in our body is reg­u­larly replaced.

It could be said that cus­toms, laws and insti­tu­tions try to impose a con­sis­tency on our rea­son­ing, hence our behav­iours, but we are also thank­ful that these crude exter­nal attempts at imposed con­sis­tency on our per­sons often fail. When pri­vate rea­son­ing is for­bid­den to gov­ern our pub­lic behav­iours, then we feel we are in the grip of tyranny. 


2. Rea­son and Con­scious­ness


Is rea­son­ing always con­scious? Think of a dog cross­ing a busy road. Some­how this ani­mal from obser­va­tion and expe­ri­ence is under­stand­ing vec­tors which change at high speed, and is able to man­age the very dif­fi­cult math­e­mat­i­cal cal­cu­la­tion of when and where its own mus­cles can pro­pel it safely across the road. At a con­scious level, hardly any of us could man­age that cal­cu­la­tion in the time avail­able. Many of us could not bring the cal­cu­la­tion to con­scious­ness with any com­pe­tence at all. Lack­ing this con­scious facil­ity, is our fac­ulty of rea­son there­fore defi­cient? My own sense is that there is not a yes/no answer to this para­dox, but rather that humans have a grad­u­ated scale of abil­i­ties to bring sub­con­scious prob­lems to con­scious aware­ness and thus con­sciously rea­soned manip­u­la­tion.

Con­scious­ness is a kind of sand-box wherein alter­na­tive solu­tions can be mod­elled. How­ever, we do not seem to delib­er­ate about sub­con­scious deci­sions in the same con­trolled, exper­i­men­tal ways, or at least not directly. Above all, the sand­box of con­scious­ness is uniquely acces­si­ble to social tools which enable us to seek the input of other human beings before deci­sions are arrived at. Some­times that exter­nal input is extremely com­plex and requires prior study itself. 

Inter­est­ingly, the lim­ited men­tal work space of per­sonal con­scious­ness often means that for advanced analy­sis the well edu­cated amongst us now project com­plex issues into exter­nal medi­ums such as writ­ing, bit by bit, then recon­sider and reassem­ble them there over time, and only later rein­te­grate them in coher­ent ways into our think­ing. The increas­ing tools avail­able for such exter­nal­ized access for con­tent to rea­son about has surely had a pro­found impact on the advance­ment of sci­en­tific and tech­ni­cal rev­o­lu­tions.

Fur­ther, it seems that dif­fer­ent peo­ple have dif­fer­ent capac­i­ties to bring dif­fer­ent kinds of prob­lems to con­scious­ness. For exam­ple, some bril­liant design engi­neers might have trou­ble con­struct­ing this essay, while I would cer­tainly strug­gle with their use of math­e­mat­ics.

To dis­cuss the ori­gins of rea­son in human behav­iour is to ven­ture into the growth, orga­ni­za­tion and trans­la­tion to action of human think­ing itself. This is an immensely com­pli­cated chal­lenge, beyond any­thing we can attempt here, yet it is per­ilous to ignore these cog­ni­tive processes if we are not to arrive at elab­o­rate the­o­ries which lack gen­uine explana­tory power (schol­arly his­tory is full of such dead ends). 

Within the con­text of explain­ing lan­guage gen­er­a­tion (cog­ni­tive lin­guis­tics) I once spent sev­eral years try­ing to under­stand the sys­tem­atic nature of human thought. It was doc­toral research which I ulti­mately put aside as hope­lessly ambi­tious. How­ever, even my aborted attempt at plumb­ing the processes of cog­ni­tion armed me with enough insight to wield a light sabre, slash­ing (for my own sat­is­fac­tion only!) through the con­fu­sion of much con­tem­po­rary research, pub­li­ca­tion and socio-polit­i­cal argu­ment in this field. For exam­ple, the closed echo cham­bers of the­o­ret­i­cal Ratio­nal­ist mod­els in sci­ence nowa­days excite my endur­ing scep­ti­cism. Per­ti­nent exam­ples would all be too com­plex to knit into this lit­tle essay. Any­one inter­ested might fol­low it up through the incom­plete Gen­er­a­tive Oscil­la­tion Model (Thor May 1994). One pat­tern which did become clear in this lin­guis­tic explo­ration of the mind was that a great deal of cog­ni­tive activ­ity, like so much else in nature, is an emer­gent phe­nom­e­non.

Emer­gence is a process whereby cause and effect merge in both direc­tions and new out­comes arise which can­not be traced trans­par­ently to a sin­gle origin. For exam­ple, on a macro level, oxy­gen in the earth’s atmos­phere co-evolved with the evo­lu­tion of plant life. It makes lit­tle sense to say that either plant life or the atmos­pheric pres­ence of oxy­gen is the “rea­son” that the other occurred (Varela et. al. 1991). In most soci­eties, includ­ing those of the West, tra­di­tions of rea­son­ing, either pop­u­lar or sci­en­tific, are sim­ply unequipped at present to han­dle a con­cept like emer­gence in sophis­ti­cated ways, regard­less of its impor­tance.  Few debates are framed in terms of emer­gence, although some­times we do rec­og­nize a “chicken and egg” para­dox.


3. Utopia revis­ited – the peo­ple we will always have


Utopian dreams have been for­mu­lated in every recorded age of human his­tory. Peo­ple invented the wheel to save labour, invented the story form to pre­serve wis­dom, and invented reli­gion to explain the inex­plic­a­ble. Yet nei­ther the wheel, nor sto­ries, nor reli­gion have equipped them to cre­ate soci­eties which pre­serve wealth, health and hap­pi­ness for all par­tic­i­pants in sus­tain­able ways. 

Innu­mer­able social mod­els have been planned with exten­sive inputs of rea­soned argu­ment, all with the objec­tive of mak­ing pos­si­ble sus­tain­able ideal soci­eties (being what­ever was con­sid­ered ideal in the par­tic­u­lar age of the pro­posal). They have either remained din­ner table pro­pos­als, or when tried in the real world, gen­er­ated unpre­dicted dis­tor­tions, fail­ure, dis­ap­point­ment, or some­times mass extinc­tion. Why? Well, regard­less of per­sua­sion, pro­pa­ganda, ser­mons, slo­gans, and all the rest, none of them have sub­stan­tially remade the psy­cholo­gies of the kalei­do­scope of char­ac­ters who con­sti­tute any pop­u­la­tion. They have how­ever proved won­der­ful vehi­cles of deceit and dis­guise for psy­chopaths in pur­suit of power. 

While indi­vid­u­als vary, in the aggre­gate of social behav­iours by whole pop­u­la­tions over time, fine words are sim­ply not matched by fine deeds. In every known soci­ety, the same kinds of scoundrels (and a few brave souls) have clawed their way up the greasy pole to power. The same kinds of indi­vid­u­als have stood aside from the strug­gle, the same kinds of police­men have policed, the same more or less com­pe­tent slog­gers have fash­ioned some kind of career, and the same mass of losers has drifted to the bot­tom of the pile. The details of this process of social dis­tri­b­u­tion have been a lit­tle dif­fer­ent, but within a gen­er­a­tion or two the out­li­nes have always been pre­dictable. No rea­soned or well-inten­tioned argu­ments have ever wholly changed it. So what is to be done?

Has social engi­neer­ing entirely failed then? No, not entirely. In civ­i­liza­tions which have sur­vived, by design or acci­dent, over sev­eral cen­turies, insti­tu­tions and laws have always evolved (for bet­ter or for worse). Such insti­tu­tions and laws have shaped the expec­ta­tions of their sub­ject pop­u­la­tions so that the under­ly­ing zoos of psy­cho­log­i­cal types, while not altered in their pri­mary design, have devel­oped behav­ioural habits to chan­nel or sub­li­mate  their inner wishes. This is not a small thing. Such cul­tural habits form the bound­aries within which peo­ple rea­son. For most indi­vid­u­als, those bound­aries of rea­son are rarely tran­scended except under extreme con­di­tions such as war. 

The take­away lesson for those who wish to rule, and those who wish to reform is that they need to influ­ence the bound­aries of rea­son­ing for very large num­bers of peo­ple.

The most prim­i­tive way to influ­ence the bound­aries of rea­son­ing  is through fear, notably vio­lence or at least intim­i­da­tion. This is the path most com­monly cho­sen, even to this day, by wannabe rulers and some­time man­agers. Its tech­ni­cal name is fas­cism. Where naked vio­lence is con­strained, the fall-back tool for those who crave power and wish to man­age pub­lic rea­son­ing is deceit (which takes many forms). 

The tools avail­able for well-inten­tioned reform­ers to influ­ence pub­lic rea­son­ing are usu­ally pro­jected through edu­ca­tion, pro­mot­ing a spirit of enquiry, open access to infor­ma­tion, evi­dence based sci­ence, and gen­er­ally “mak­ing it easy to be good” with care­fully planned reg­u­la­tions and incen­tives.


4. Sisy­phus and the fragility of good works


Once, briefly, I was a law stu­dent, where a wise elder advised that civ­i­liza­tion was about peo­ple learn­ing to agree to dis­agree. Since the sur­vival of lawyers depends upon per­suad­ing peo­ple to dis­agree often but non-vio­lently, the elder’s idea seemed espe­cially con­ge­nial at the time. Nowa­days I am a teacher with fool­ishly grander ambi­tions. As a teacher I seek to extend the bound­aries within which my stu­dents can rea­son, to clar­ify the pat­terns in nature and soci­ety which they may wish to rea­son about, and to remind them of the many for­mal and infor­mal tools avail­able for rea­son­ing well. 

Unlike the pow­er­ful, it does not dis­turb me if those stu­dents can rea­son their argu­ments to posi­tions which con­front my own beliefs. What does dis­turb me is that so many of them lack the curios­ity to fully equip their minds. But even sad­der is the real­iza­tion after a life­time of teach­ing that each new gen­er­a­tion will arrive mostly obliv­i­ous of and indif­fer­ent to what their par­ents, let alone the accu­mu­lated wis­dom of the cul­ture, has man­aged to assem­ble as a guide to a worth­while life in a benign soci­ety. The glo­ries and dis­as­trous choices of fal­len civ­i­liza­tions are for them at best a tele­vi­sion spec­tac­u­lar. They risk repeat­ing the same mis­takes by wield­ing the invin­ci­ble arro­gance of unchal­lenged lives. 

This dilemma is not new. The Sisy­phus of Greek leg­end was con­demned for eter­nity to push a boul­der to a moun­tain­top, where­upon it would roll to the bot­tom again. One ven­er­a­ble solu­tion was to force the unwashed to mem­o­rize a holy book, wherein fixed answers to all life’s prob­lems were enshrined. Well, that idea was tri­alled for a cou­ple of thou­sand years with unim­pres­sive results. Now the bureau­crat priests of mass edu­ca­tion try the same trick in a some­what more dif­fuse way with their cur­ricu­lums and exams, but on the whole with equally unim­pres­sive results. We are wait­ing to see if mass self-inoc­u­la­tion with ran­dom wis­dom and mis­chief via the bound­less data­bases of Google leads to a brave new world. 


5. Learn­ing to love stu­pid­ity and cage mis­chief


I can rarely teach a fool to be wise, regard­less of age. Heaven knows, I have tried for decades, using every trick and argu­ment and source of infor­ma­tion my wit could muster. More likely, I am thought to be a fool by the fool, so we go our sep­a­rate fool­ish ways. Some­times, years later our paths cross again when it can hap­pen that the fool has acquired my ver­sion of wis­dom in the school of hard knocks, or I have acquired his ver­sion of fool­ish­ness. Ear­lier in this essay I men­tioned a law pro­fes­sor who advised his neo­phytes that agree­ing to dis­agree was the high­est form of civ­i­liza­tion. Well we need lawyers as far as they help us to live with­out mutu­ally assured destruc­tion.

We also need engi­neers though. Sup­pose you are the mayor of a city of a mil­lion peo­ple, and you are either going to have that bridge built or you are not. The fools who dis­agree with you can either be shot, or be paci­fied by some con­ces­sion which the city engi­neer thinks is stu­pid. Nowa­days I would nego­ti­ate the con­ces­sion, even if I agreed with the engi­neer in pri­vate. The fools and I will all have to live in this same city forever. Hell, even my chil­dren might turn out to be fools too. This is what is called civil soci­ety. The frames of rea­son­ing within which civil soci­eties are con­structed would drive any pure bred ratio­nal­ist to drink and machine guns. In the end though, the fools and I get to sur­vive in some­thing like peace­ful streets, which seems like a very rea­son­able out­come.



Read­ing List


Birm­ing­ham, John (April 22, 2014) “Reas­sur­ing lies don’t belong in cli­mate debate”. Bris­bane Times online @  http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/comment/blogs/blunt-instrument/reassuring-lies-dont-belong-in-climate-debate-20140421-3709t.html#ixzz2zZBxfP3U

Bloom, Paul (Feb 19, 2014) “The War on Rea­son – Sci­en­tists and philoso­phers argue that human beings are lit­tle more than pup­pets of their bio­chem­istry. Here’s why they’re wrong”. [rec­om­mended] The Atlantic, online @ http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2014/03/the-war-on-reason/357561/

Bou­ton, Charles (1991) Neu­rolin­guis­tics : His­tor­i­cal & The­o­ret­i­cal Per­spec­tives. (U.Melbourne library Ba 153.6 BOUT) NY:Plenum Press

Catholic Encyclopedia (n.d.) “Reason”.  Catholic Encyclopedia website, online @ http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/12673b.htm  

Cox, Lisa (April 18, 2014) “Climate change proponents using ‘mediaeval’ tactics: George Brandis”. Sydney Morning Herald, online @ http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/climate-change-proponents-using-mediaeval-tactics-george-brandis-20140418-zqwfc.html#ixzz2zaspUWqA   

Donne, John (2014) Wikipedia biography, online @ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Donne

Gittins, Ross (April 19, 2014) “Modern economists are clever with numbers but way out of tune”. Sydney Morning Herald, online @ http://www.smh.com.au/business/modern-economists-are-clever-with-numbers-but-way-out-of-tune-20140418-36w84.html#ixzz2zNX7ctq2

Kant, Immanuel (1788) “The Critique of Practical Reason”.  iTunes ebook available @ https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/critique-practical-reason/id567665825?mt=11 ; pdf download @ http://www2.hn.psu.edu/faculty/jmanis/kant/critique-practical-reason.pdf

Kant, Immanuel (1781) “The Critique of Pure Reason”. Gutenberg ebook download @ http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/4280 ;  pdf download @ www2.hn.psu.edu/faculty/jmanis/kant/critique-pure-reason6x9.pdf  

Lockett, Mike (n.d.) “The Blind Men and the Elephant”. [parable retold by Dr. Mike Lockett], The Storyteller Online website, online @ http://www.mikelockett.com/stories.php?action=view&id=18   

May, Thor (1998–2014) “The Agnostic’s Survival Manual”. The Passionate Skeptic website, online @  http://thormay.net/unwiseideas/TheAgnosticsSurvivalManual.htm ; also a pdf version @  https://www.academia.edu/3486693/The_Agnostics_Survival_Manual

May, Thor (1994) “Generative Oscillation – A Cognitive Model for the Emergence of Language”. The Passionate Skeptic website, online @ http://thormay.net/lxesl/go1.html ; pdf version also available @  https://www.academia.edu/1588339/Generative_Oscillation_-_A_Cognitive_Model_for_the_Emergence_of_Language

May, Thor (1987) “Super Culture and the Ghost in the Machine”. The Passionate Skeptic website, online @  http://thormay.net/unwiseideas/skeptic/philos7.html . Also, pdf version available online @  http://www.academia.edu/3653431/Super-Culture_And_The_Ghost_In_The_Machine

Mitchell, Melanie (2011) Complexity: A Guided Tour. OUP. e-book also available online @ http://www.amazon.com/Complexity-Guided-Tour-Melanie-Mitchell/dp/0199798109

Plutach (1st Century A.D.) “The Ship of Theseus”. [a philosophical paradox], Wikipedia online @ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ship_of_Theseus

Reason Foundation (2014) [Libertarian think tank mostly concerned with American domestic political policy]. Reason Foundation website, online @  http://reason.org/    

Reasons to Believe (2014) “Where Science and Faith Converge”. [Evangelical Christian website] Reasons to Believe online @ http://www.reasons.org/

Saul, John Ralston (1993) Voltaire’s Bastards: The Dictatorship of Reason in the West. available online @ http://www.amazon.com/Voltaires-Bastards-Dictatorship-Reason-West/dp/0679748199   

The Centre for Bhutan Studies & GNH Research (n.d.) “Gross National Happiness”. Government of Bhutan institute site, online http://www.grossnationalhappiness.com/

Varela J, E Thompson & E Rosch (1991) The Embodied Mind : Cognitive Science and Human Experience [strongly recommended reading. U.Melbourne library Ba 153.4 VARE] Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press. Also available in e-book format @  http://www.amazon.com/The-Embodied-Mind-Cognitive-Experience/dp/0262720213

Wikipedia (2014) “Voltaire”. Wikipedia online @ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voltaire

Wikipedia (2014) Kant’s “Critique of Pure Reason”. Wikipedia online @ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Critique_of_Pure_Reason

Wikipedia (2014) Kant’s “Critique of Practical Reason”. Wikipedia online @ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Critique_of_Practical_Reason

Wikipedia (2014) “Reason”. Wikipedia online @ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reason  

Wikipedia (2014) “Gross National Happiness”. Wikipedia online @ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gross_national_happiness



Pro­fes­sional bio: Thor May has a core pro­fes­sional inter­est in cog­ni­tive lin­guis­tics, at which he has rarely suc­ceeded in mak­ing a liv­ing. He has also, per­haps fatally in a career sense, cul­ti­vated an inter­est in how things work – peo­ple, brains, sys­tems, coun­tries, machi­nes, what­ever… In the world of daily employ­ment he has mostly taught Eng­lish as a for­eign lan­guage, a stim­u­lat­ing activ­ity though rarely regarded as a pro­fes­sion by the world at large. His PhD dis­ser­ta­tion, Lan­guage Tan­gle, dealt with lan­guage teach­ing pro­duc­tiv­ity. Thor has been teach­ing Eng­lish to non-native speak­ers, train­ing teach­ers and lec­tur­ing lin­guis­tics, since 1976. This work has taken him to seven coun­tries in Ocea­nia and East Asia, mostly with ter­tiary stu­dents, but with a cou­ple of detours to teach sec­ondary stu­dents and young chil­dren. He has trained teach­ers in Aus­tralia, Fiji and South Korea. In an ear­lier life, prior to becom­ing a teacher, he had a decade of find­ing his way out of work­ing class ori­gins, through unskilled jobs in Aus­tralia, New Zealand and finally Eng­land (after back­pack­ing across Asia in 1972). 

con­tact: http://thormay.net thormay@yahoo.com

aca­d­e­mic repos­i­tory: Academia.edu at http://independent.academia.edu/ThorMay   

dis­cus­sion: Thor’s Unwise Ideas at http://thormay.net/unwiseideas/unwisendx.html  


Some Uses and Mis­uses of Rea­son © Thor May 2014

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