A Critique of Pure Reason
“Come now, let us reason together, “says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet,
they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool (Isa 1:18).
Let me begin by saying that from a reasonable point of view or from a Christian world view, there is no such thing as pure reason. It is self-evident; that reason is finite and has been polluted by men’s passions and his own finiteness. It has even been shown by computers that mathematics is not as absolute or as perfect as once imagined. As one man has said, “reason is a sick lady, sick with finiteness and sin.”
The awareness of the corruption of reason is so prevalent that science has had to create what is known as the ‘scientific method’ or ‘law’. This would set some limits and critiques on human reasoning, and the human tendency to abuse her. In this, the existence of the scientific method bears witness to the corruption and limits of reason. However, like all laws, the scientific method has its own limits. For example, if taken too rigid it tends to stifle faith and imagination, which are needed for growth in science or any field of study. Of course, lawless people will ignore it and legalistic people will abuse it and misapply it. Even so it remains the best method of keeping people’s thinking reasonable, at least to a degree in science.
I once told a young man that given enough time, reason would chase its own tail. Being a rationalist his reaction was one of amazement mixed with a little anger. I explained to him that when I give a reason for something, I must subsequently give a reason for the reason and then a reason for that reason; this regression would be infinite until I came to the end of reason itself.
We have one of two choices. To follow the regression of reason to the end of reason and accept the nihilism which follows; or follow reason to a first cause. If you are an atheist and denied that the first cause is intelligible, your problem becomes insurmountable, for you would have an irrational force giving birth to rationality .1. In this, you will inevitably end up denying reason (if you are brave or should I say foolish enough) or making it the first cause and in that you would have made reason a god. Moreover, reason will find its end when it comes up against itself for how can reason explain itself without arguing in circles or chasing its own tail. For example, “I believe in reason, because that is what reason says to believe” or “I believe in reason because my philosophy professor said I should believe in it, and he learned it from Plato, who learned it from reason.”
Are you saying that you do not believe in reason? No, I am simply saying that reason has it limits and be careful not to ask too much of her. She is not infallible and without a proper foundation to reason from, she is like a man trying to ride a wild horse, she can kill you. She is a gift from God and was given as a tool to help us find our way on our journey. If we corrupt her, we do so at our own peril. If we make her into god, we bring the wrath of God upon ourselves. “You shall not have any other gods before you.” We make reason into god when we turn reason into rationalism. The different between reason and rationalism is that reason knows her limits; rationalism does not and in this, rationalism is unreasonable and even stupid.
1.Some have argued that natural selection was the source of reason. However, selection presumes a choice with the options already existing. Therefore, natural selection cannot explain reason. The only out for the naturalist is to claim mutations as the source reason, i.e. a mistake. The question is, can you trust the mind, which is the product of non-directed random mutation? In other words the mutations were not reasonable, but they created reason. Of course, if you are a theist you believe that the deity directs all things as the first cause.