Reason or Trust?

We all want to be reasonable, but is this a realistic goal? I argue that trust is an equal (if underrated) social value.
Whether one is living in a modern or even a post-modern society, the one with a "reasonable" argument is likely to win the day (of course emotional arguments win their share, but that discussion is for a later post).

My focus here is upon the enlightened liberal society's confidence in reason and science… as opposed to confidence in "faith," "religion" or "belief." Others have written about this same topic and noted that every scientific conclusion is undergirded by faith based conclusions. They argue that reason cannot stand alone; we have faith that our senses, our reason, and our consciousness are in touch with "reality" - even though those "tools" cannot be altogether scientifically legitimized. However, I want to express some of these problems with "reason" with a little different language.

I want to illuminate the important role of TRUST within our reasoning as individuals and as a society. Trust is necessary because

  • no one has the depth of knowledge to reason from foundational truths with every question that comes up,
  • no one has the time or skills necessary to ascertain truth in every area,
  • and not every question is one that can be fully addressed by reason because they are questions involving value or beauty.

Because of these limitations, we all MUST abbreviate the "reasoning ideal." We look to trusted people who "know more than us" and follow their advice or example. We don't abandon reason, but following diverse circles of trust, we do the best we can. We rely on trust to different degrees depending on our own knowledge, etc., but we all depend on trust. When someone is outside our circle of trust… maybe even in a circle of distrust (perhaps because of their political perspectives), we find it "reasonable" to discount their "authority." Thus a scientist or professor may be discounted in favor of a friend or a pastor.

Is this wrong in a reason based society? No! Pure reason will never provide a solid foundation for life! It is an impossible (and limited) goal. We can incrementally expand our base of reason, but we all must trust others. The problem I see in todays society is that due to the prevalence of secular education and also the philosophic shallowness of many religious schools, too few people gain the tools necessary to reason to any degree of depth. Further, since so many religious communities only narrowly engage the world of scholarship and expertise, religious people have few scholars or experts in their "circles of trust."

The Remedy, as with nearly all things… we must make religious education more accessible and increase its philosophic rigor! (Go SACE!) But also, we must become more of a discussion based people rather than a work and entertainment based people. By strengthening our bases of knowledge, our skills of reason, and our circles of trust (with God at the center), the "reasonable" ideals of society may be re-invigorated!
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