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Kierkegaard and Ellul: Reason

The advent of the scientific method as a means of arriving closer to the truth about the various unknowns that ‘plague’ our world, most commonly affiliated with reason, was called to question by many philosophers in the early 20th century. Those philosophers were given a lot of backlash in regards to their speculations because how can one ever be wary of science? ‘Look at how much scientific creations and phenomenons changed how we live today’ would be the rebuttal to the concern posed by philosophers in the realm of science. Moreover, the age of reason, more infamously known as The Enlightenment, was somewhat of an escape from religious dogma that was seen as the best and only way to arrive at the truth about things. The Enlightenment offered another way, paved another road that proportioned our belief to the evidence, so to speak. This phenomenon was explained by Kant as ‘Man's removal from his self incurred tutelage.’ What Kant was essentially referring to was the escape from years and years of rigid religious dogma that was viewed as a lens to calibrate viable solutions to difficult problems from. Alas, it was said that The Enlightenment would offer better, more accurate explanations to phenomena when all it has done was morph the certainty that was put in religious faith, to equal certainty in the realm of science. The overarching theme of ‘arriving closer to the truth’ can be encompassed by the word certainty which elbows out any and all other possibilities other than the one being focused on at the given time. Truth be told, science has yielded plenty of discoveries pertaining to our solar system, various bacteria, life altering medicine, and the like. But it falls short in the most potent aspect of all: what it means to be a human being. Ellul mentions that with the omnipotent presence of scientific means for arriving at conclusions for any and all problems, we’d end up using the same process for eradicating widgets from a factory, to dealing with people in a society. As a result, equating human beings to tedious widgets. Kierkegaard goes on to say that human life is filled with paradoxes that reason and science cannot utterly comprehend and fix. It is in that case that irrationality may serve more value than its counterpart, which is contrary to popular belief. In complex and topsy turvy lives of human beings irrationality may as well be as important as rationality and we should embrace, rather than suppress it. We have the tendency to veer towards the realm that will give us the ‘best scientific solution for things’ when all the while, this solution may not fit the bill of what humans essentially need to reach the most optimum solution. Because in reality, that solution more often than not won’t sit right with us because we are not technologically augmented, we are not scientifically programmed, we are just merely humans that require a different, more irrational way of doing, seeing, and approaching obstacles that come our way. Let's take an example, imagine there is a comprehensive book on how to meticulously raise your infant that is utterly prevalent with these mathematical equations and geometric configurations which tell you exactly how to build your baby's nursery, deal with endless crying, and much more. Although the author has good intentions, something just doesn't sit right with us due to an oversimplified answer to a very malleable and dynamic question. Again, this need to be absolutely certain that this is the only answer that will yield to virtuous conclusions is the same shortcoming we see happen pre-enlightenment as well. When we are using purely rational analysis, we elbow out the aspect of what it is to be human that is anything but certain, rigid, and dogmatic.

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