Giving Reason in Digital Culture
Human Reason – and rationality potential – is too complex to have a single kind of function.
When we are giving someone reason, the main aim is to get the person we are facing agreeing with us (you know what I’m meaning, the type of tacit agreement on our views, opinions, personal truth, and so on). Searching out effective means of reaching others is a pretty natural thing for us, despite everyone knows that Evolution-ism, as a scientific theory, assembles some traits of our instinctive and inner behavior as ones peculiar to other social mammals.
Sometimes I think on an aspect of reason, that in those years began to reflect the inner skepticism of people tired from a lack of perspectives and controversial facts risen up after a terrible political time of ideas and the crisis which has pressed some countries economic potential. Despite that main trend, that is floating on the surface of the picture we are seeing (or maybe personally facing in our daily routine), I think that reason can play a trumping role in judgment.
When we are facing something that we shall describe with specific features we recur to our experience. So thinking wisely, the judgement that reason plays a weak role in judgement is itself a judgement.
Regarding the internet world and the digital culture is true that we are overloaded with information, that today is becoming more difficult to really understand and infer from meanings, fundamental values, or something that our principles of rationality (or even controlled insanity, I may add) can define and square by some standards.
It happens also that the data available for us are twofold, but as happens lots of time our awareness is not well trained to identify them as they are because an aspect can cover the other well enough. Usually, data admits of more than one interpretation and so on more than one explanation, so we must infer some details and “features” to give a personal (rational?) judgment on what is the case we think it shall be.
In doing that we actually recur to the values that form our personal background and as we can say broadly, our prevalent form of intelligence ( mathematics-logical, musical, kinesthetic, emotional, linguistical) to let them become our guide in the play, where giving certain significants on what we face every moment is not so easy as we may though.
I want to point out another aspect of which all of us should think: ethics and politics have lost their supremacy to help us seeing our backs from false information that we can easily define a “silent virus” in our hardly balanced society. From that arise the issue of human psychology is hardwired in such a way that in the digital culture, for example, well-planned reasoning have very little influence over us and we should be more cautious to drawn conclusions too quickly.
Making judgements so easily, following the “trends”, the emotions or the “gut ranginess” is not respectful to basic human autonomy and sense of innate respect for the seeking of the truth, the complexity and the ambivalence of the situations we try to recognize.
Modern philosophy, more specific eighteenth-century one, has let us know by the figure of Immanuel Kant, the principles and characteristics of enlightenment. In this kind of “way of reasoning”, you must have the courage to think for yourself and to find the way to explain the specific content of your thinking to others. That way of acting is more than an informal attitude (that can be a sporadic manifestation up to the single person) that can let begin people to act as formal citizens in a society based on common values, rules, facts and a formally manifested respect one from another.
Enlightenment can be defined as a very kind of reasoning when people who carry out its “powers” have the courage to think by themselves some inferences on the topic, finding a way to explain this specific content of their thinking “process” to others. That way of acting is more than an informal attitude (that can be a paradisaical manifestation carried up by the single person) that can potentially allow people to act as formal citizens in a society based on common values, rules, facts and a formally manifested respect one from another.
Kant pointed out that, when I give you reasons I treat you as someone who is free to make up your own mind. I treat you with dignity. I treat you as a person that can understand at a deeper level what I am going to say. So, even if you really do know the truth (even if you are an oracle with all-knowing powers or the scholar at Plato’s Academia, you should not just appeal to a specific and single fact that in most of the cases is disconnected from a more complex net of facts that, by the way, and vice-versa can be direct or indirectly connectable to it.
We can say that others have the potential to recognize as reason just because they are human and all of us may appeal to a shared humanity. Kant’s point helps to mitigate the influence of ancient skeptical argument even if it does not answer it directly.
In effect, the skeptical argument says that we are not able to defend fundamental scientific methods as any more rational than other methods. But, thanks to Kant reflections, we can show that they are more democratic, respectful and a fundamental aspect of human autonomy to distinguish elements by the enforcement of human cognitive capacities such as observation and inference.
Observation and logic are strategies that everyone can, at least to some extent, use themselves in a social network and learn to better use with some training.
It is true that the Internet, as we saw it, has created an explosion of what can be define receptive knowledge. We feel, during our surfing, searching and sharing experience that while its features are wonderful in many cases they are not enough: we need to share reasons and play our connections and abilities following epistemic if we want to face with success the information coordination problem that faces all societies.
That is why is so important to pay attention and to redirect our effort on the methods and events we create to encourage people to “know” about the world around them; and even better around all of us. Maybe well-though institutions can encourage cooperation and a face-to-face contact with people that have different backgrounds and views. But before that, a first step is needed to be promoted: receptive thoughts capacities. Everyone has private limitations, biases, implicit or otherwise “black holes” intended in this case as a metaphor on rational chasm.
A way to underline that issue and to be aware on the importance of critical thinking is give a certain privilege on scientific epistemic principles and methods of thinking in public discourse precisely, because such principles allow us to evaluate authority and power. What makes scientific methods of rationality so important is that without them you can imagine an open well-established society.
We face fragmentation, as individuals and as a former united society, because critical thinking has a secondary importance in the learning processes and on the idea we have of digital culture.
The philosopher Richard Rorty says that if you take care of freedom, truth will take care of itself. His idea came from the influence of another great man in the history of education and philosophy of science, John Dewey, who says at his time that we cannot hope to ground our political principles on our scientific or epistemic principles. If science and the principles around it are on the bottom of our scale of values we have not the right to complain that society has become weak and faint with lots of “illness”, so not able to advance in the idea we have of “welfare”.
I am trying to imagine this situation: people that should improve their values (epistemic, intellectual and political) making sure that truth and freedom take care of each other. Civil society requires that we treat one another with respect and as autonomous thinkers, and on this outline as bunch of people who can make up their own mind and have the right to do so. Giving up on that specific point will led us live in an isolation of a weak Tower ready to be askew. This tower can be a metaphor of the reinforcement of our prejudices and the lack of clear and rational assumptions on what we face in common routine and digital life (that take fully part of it).
Just to say that when people are not able to agree on principles of evidence and rationality, therefor they are not well trained to agree on fact that for their rational values leave little space to imagination and personal judgement. And the main problem is, more in general, that if someone do not see the facts as they are, he can hardly agree on what to do with the facts increasing what ancient history describe as tribalism.
An open question remains how to transfer those reflections on daily life and processes of reasoning and judging what we face. Even now.
Have a great Sunday 🙂 and critical thinking time!