One's personality is both a composition and reflection, but if I have to choose one of them, I will choose reflection as the "self" is more important to me than "me". One's composition may change, walking across the cultural landscapes and climbing the social ladder but one's self is tied to one's reflections. The fun part is that reflections are not bound to "Time-Space" barriers ( it is not time-space) and respective mental constructs, which have grown so thick over ages, that they had reduced the image of humans to Sisyphus, rolling different sizes of boulders on hills of different heights.… As the name of this Blog indicates, knols are my perspectives on topics of interests, sweet/bitter experiences or just doodling :)

Saturday, October 20, 2012

The Ego of Reductionism

This knol is 4th part of " why it takes time to have a centralist position?",   "Nature does not discriminate" and "Pure Rationalism is destined to failure".

And now, back to our first definitions,

I look to "rationalism as another name of reductionism". Logic is the art of reducing things to their fundamentals and by "pure reductionism", I mean fundamentalism in reductionist approach. While, reductionism helps us in clear understanding of things and correlating among different things to generalize our world views but we have not to forget that, these generalizations are our mechanical reflections of reality and is one among many others. For example, we reduce the matter to fundamental particles and it allows us to generalize the whole Universe as one but that can't explain everything. For life, we need another level and as you are aware, genes are the current currency. Apart from physical reality, we have mathematical and  digital realities that are other expressions of reductionism.

Cartoon Source; XKCD

Fine, the real world is far more complex and interactive than bits but what does it have to "nature" of things and why fundamentalism in reductionism is destined to failure?

As the main purpose of "reductionism" is to have an understanding of the world, so it is basically tied to humans. One of the most philosophical reductionist exercise was performed by Rene Descartes; he doubts everything but  can't doubt his own existence and famously declares, "I think, therefore I am". To understand "reducitonism", we need it to understand humans. Just for sake of current argument,  lets reduce humans to an individual like, "I" or "you". What "I" or "you" stands on? The core of "I" is "ego". Theoretically, ego is the mediator between human instincts and reality and it helps humans behave and appear as they seem to. Now, how "ego" mediate between reality and instincts depends on the cultural conditioning and it is why, we need to rationalize things. It is the urge of ego to make the interpretations of reality fitted to its cultural conditioning. If it fails to rationalize things properly, the ego won't be able to mediate well between reality and the basic instinctual desires and the results are either "suppression of instinctual desires" or "loose control" over it. For example, war is an abnormal situation, when the cultural norms under which egos were conditioned break down and egos lose the ability to mediate well between instinctual desires and reality and the "abnormal behaviors" such as killings, looting and all sorts of abuses come as common tragedies. Of course, ego still pushes to rationalize the instinctual desires by a cultural covers such as religion, nationalism, patriotism, or simply rationalism to continue its basic functions. Don't take it wrong. Ego in general is  for our good and it is the basic drive for goal settings, achievements, confidence and social responsibilities. However, the wrong cultural conditioning can lead to negative rationalization of instinctual desires. For example, the current cultural trend, in which children are conditioned around their "personal wants and liking" are making people less concerned on collective good or they escape social reprehensibility by negative rationalizations. This "selfish" and "narcissistic" ego is the result of reductionism based on "I" and "you" approach. "Do, what you want/Like" is just half of the reality in which, we live. The other half is, "Do/want for others as you want others want/do to you".

Just as mentioned earlier, Descartes reductionist exercise was to show that, "Man is a rational animal" as it is ascribed to Aristotle. Although Men have tendency to be rational but, are they really rational by their own standards of rationality? Basically rationality falls to serve two basic human needs; (1) to make one's world view based on evidences (epistemic rationalism) and (2) to help one makes right choices and function in best ways to optimize one's abilities/talents/safety (functional/instrumental rationalism).

It is not going to take time in finding countless examples and ways that, we (humans) tend to bypass rationality. Some big ones are culture, situations, costs, time, laziness, unfamiliarity (poor information) and pleasure/pain. If you are an optimist person, you may conclude; Yes, humans have the rational competence but may act or do bad reasoning due to performance errors based on some of the mentioned conditions. But, if you are a little bit skeptic, you may conclude; humans are not good at reasoning and the chances of errors are high due to different rational competences and conditioning and it is why, cross-questioning are needed to reduce the errors and a rational conclusion is an open ended inference.

Back to our Aristotelian definition of humans as, "rational animal"; Why he had used the term "rational animal"? Why he had compared humans with animals to define the rationalism? An  unequivocal explanation comes from observations that, animal behave under obligatory natural laws. Animals never had to devise laws, set standards of morality or claims of divine laws. It is only humans, who have the ability to understand natural laws by their observations, communicate to their consciences to set up the standards for nobility and morality and obligate themselves to things, that are not obligated by nature, e.g, to help people in need that are genetically and culturally distant. Despite a common characteristics of humans in understanding and making higher standards than natural laws based on their rationality, the standards of rationalism greatly vary and naturally the standards of morality and that is something, I like to discuss in the next knol.

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