The Man of Reason: Part Nine

The conclusion of the Republic with the myth of Er reveals Plato’s belief in the (truth-revealing) power of imagination. By his own criteria, Plato himself would have been banned from his Republic.78

In her essay Lloyd wrote that ‘the seventeenth century rationalists were aware of the limited, and limiting, character of systematised reason’,79 that this reason could not reflect the flux of consciousness. In her treatment of Romanticism, she commented that the emotions are a motivating force in their own right.80 Further, that intuition is associated with female thought styles and ‘deserves to be part of a constructive assessment of the claims and the ideals of reason.’81 In her book The Man of Reason, she wrote ‘the hierarchical relations between reason and its opposites – or between higher and lower forms of reason – have undoubtedly contributed to the devaluing of things associated with the feminine.’82

Plumwood’s discussion of the relevance of emotions to reason is most valuable. She argued for a critiquing of the dominant forms of reason to redefine or reconstruct them in less oppositional and hierarchical ways and for an affirmative assessment of emotion as being both crucial and creative. She wrote of reason and emotions as capable of a creative integration and interaction and ties an inclusion and respect for the emotions to the development of rationality and ethics.83

There is no marker in the brain with the words ‘Emotions please move quietly to the left, Reason, you may go to the right.’ Reason and emotion are inseparable. Lloyd wrote of higher and lower forms of reason, Plumwood of the overcoming of opposition and hierarchy. I propose a scale of cognition – at the ‘lower’ end, those elements to which Ilyenkov referred:

‘It was necessary to go even further back, to uncomprehended contemplation, sense perception, aesthetic intuition, i.e. to the realm of lower forms of consciousness (lower, that is, in relation to conceptual thinking), where there was really no contradiction for the simple reason that it had still not been disclosed and clearly expressed.’84

Together with this, dreams, general intuitions, and ‘above’ – conscious cognition.

The gulf in theory between reason and emotion has its paraphrase in the distinction between philosophical idealism and idealism. Was not the founder of objective idealism idealistic? How rational is it that there could be a heaven above or on earth, how rational the desire, justified by God, to have complete mastery of one’s ‘mind’ or of nature?

I define idealism as the inspiration towards that which is felt to be higher than, and argue that much of this brain function has been appropriated to Reason itself through definition – ‘(philosophical) idealism is the thought that…’,  thereby severing that part from its source, ‘below’ rationality, denying the non-rational. In so doing, Reason and rationalisation are inter-changeable.

Reason as philosophical idealism and ‘non-intellectual’ elements as idealism have both had an immense impact on life. They are driving forces and sources of creative power. What is necessary is that their material basis and inter-relationship in life is reflected in theory. In his ‘Conspectus of Hegel’s Science of Logic’ Lenin wrote:

‘The thought of the ideal passing into the real is profound: very important for history. But also in the personal life of man it is clear that this contains much truth. Against vulgar materialism. N.B. The difference of the ideal from the material is also not unconditional, not excessive…The Idea is Cognition and aspiration (volition) [of man]…The process of (transitory, finite, limited) cognition and action converts abstract concepts into perfected objectivity.’85

Lenin argued that the absolute exists within the relative and is revealed through the development of the ideal in reality by practice.

Sexless Reason has not only been conceived as a transcendence of the feminine, not even of the male, but of life, of matter. The heavens are reflected in the gutter, as Tolstoy thought – but they exist only as elements of the material world. Much has been achieved despite the Man of Reason. He is bare. His upholding is a dissipation and distraction of energy from addressing the reflection in theory of the inter-relationship of reason, the emotions and elements ‘below’ consciousness in practice. His function is the justification and maintenance of division, exploitation and oppression. What is needed for the Man of Reason is not the realisation of his limitations as a human ideal, but the realisation of his passing, in order that men and women alike might come to enjoy a more humane life, free of the dualisms that have developed in his shadow.

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Notes

78. This same dichotomy can be seen in Marx’s life. Failing to unite science and art in his dialogue ‘Cleanthes’, which also carried him ‘like a false-hearted siren into the clutches of the enemy’, (my italics) Marx (who developed his epistemology primarily on Hegel’s philosophy) abandoned poetry for philosophy in which he hoped to discover ‘our mental nature to be just as determined, concrete, and firmly established as our physical’. In E. Fischer, The Necessity of Art, A Marxist Approach, Trans., A. Bostock, 1959, reprint. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1986, 4. In his doctoral thesis of 1841 he wrote ‘In order for man to become his only true object, he must have crushed within himself  (my italics) his relative mode of being, the force of passion and of mere nature’. (Ibid.) Lenin, Gorky and Lunacharsky wrote that although Lenin loved music, to listen to it disturbed him very much. In Lenin on Literature and Art, Progress: Moscow, 1978, 270, 284, 285. Trotsky also admitted to ‘resisting’ art. In M. Solomon, Ed., Marxism and Art, Essays Classic and Contemporary, 1973; reprint. Detroit, 1986, 192.
Hitler, another idealistic male system-builder, this time of the thousand-year-Reich, who once painted reasonable water-colours for a living, stated ‘As long as a people exists, however, it is the fixed pole in the flight of fleeting appearances. It is the being and the lasting permanence. And, indeed, for this reason, art as an expression of the essence of this being, is an eternal monument – in itself the being and the permanence’ From the speech inaugurating the ‘Great Exhibition of German Art’, 1937, Munich, published in ‘Der Führer eroffnet die Grosse Deutsche Kunstausstellung 1937’, Die Kunst im Dritten Reich (Munich), I, 7-8, (July-August, 1937) 47-61, in H. Chipp, Ed., Theories of Modern Art, A Source Book by Artists and Critics., University of California Press, 1968, 478; Plotinus wrote: ‘”Let us flee then to the beloved Fatherland”: this is the soundest counsel.’ In Plotinus, The Enneads., Third ed. Abridged. Trans., S. MacKenna. op. cit. 54

79. G. Lloyd, ‘The Man of Reason’, in Women, Knowledge, and Reality: Explorations in Feminist Philosophy. Eds., A. Garry and M. Pearsall. Boston: Unwin Hyman, 1989, 124

80. Ibid. 125

81. Ibid. 124

82. G. Lloyd, The Man of Reason, ‘Male’ and ‘Female’ in Western Philosophy, London: Methuen, 1984, x (Preface to 1993 edition)

83. ‘The resolution of human/nature dualism is closely linked with the resolution of other closely associated reason/nature dualisms, such as the reason/emotion dualism…We have noticed how emotion is constructed as the opponent and dualised underside of reason, so that it is identified as an unreliable, unreflective, irrational and sometimes uncontrollable force reason must dominate. We should certainly challenge the narrowing and dominating role of reason…Emotion, like other areas reason has excluded, can be treated affirmatively, as a crucial and creative element, but in doing this we affirm neither the irrational nor the anti-rational.’ V. Plumwood, Feminism and the Mastery of Nature, London: Routledge, 1993, 189

84. E. Ilyenkov, Dialectical Logic, Essays on its History and Theory, Progress: Moscow, 1977, 189

85. V. Lenin, Collected Works, Volume 38 (Philosophical Notebooks), Progress, Moscow, 1976, 114, 195

One thought on “The Man of Reason: Part Nine

  1. In Lenin’s – and not only – case, “the” problems arise when concepts are being attempted to be defined not by an honest quest for objective archetypal statements, but by rather personal and therefore heavily biased interpretations of perceived absolutes. Absolutes do exist in true, ab ovo forms, allowing from there for amendments required by an ever changing reality.
    The very reality of words for concepts, prove the necessity of their concepts’ existence.
    Intellects, even brilliantly complex as Lenin’s or Trotsky’s, do not justify the recreation ex nihilo of preexisting neither concepts, nor the words to express them.
    Why do humans see only the shallow waves, when what truly matters is the constancy beneath?
    We ever chase definitions based on what’s being caused by changing atmospheric conditions, when we should immerse ourselves beneath, and see the definitions according to the object we’d want to define.
    Like christianity, ever busy with the “letters” covering the “gospel” cores, where all’s clear in it’s naked, failed form: christianity as left by christ, has lasted as a circumcision only Jewish messianic sect, but only until 70 AD, when it’s core, the Temple and the sacrificial system were trashed by Titus’ army. The rest is ecclesiastical cover-up, according to the spiritual agenda of mass control by emerging structures of power.
    Truth is not the clay, but the pit which gave it to the potter…

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