Epistemology, Ideologies, Philosophy, Science, Truth

Against Reason Alone

“I am not primarily an advocate of capitalism, but of egoism; and I am not primarily an advocate of egoism, but of reason. If one recognizes the supremacy of reason and applies it consistently, all the rest follows.”

Ayn Rand

If I correctly understand her, Rand is mistaken in assuming reason is by itself sufficient. Even when consistently applied, reason alone usually doesn’t do us much good in establishing truths.  At least not outside of pure logic and mathematics.  One reason that’s the case is because reason so often leads us to two, three, four, or even more options — each one reasonable.  If science relied on reason alone, nothing would ever be settled by science.

Reason needs observation to discipline it.  Reason should always be checked against observation — otherwise reason too often leads to even the wildest sort of speculations.   One of the reasons science has made so much progress in our understanding of the universe is because science combines reason and observation — rather than relying on reason alone.  Science constantly tests reason against observation.  In science, when observation disagrees with reason, observation triumphs.

At any rate, I felt like Randing ranting a bit.  So, that’s my rant for the day.

6 thoughts on “Against Reason Alone”

  1. Perhaps you should read Rand. You will discover that, in her view, all proper reasoning requires a full grasp of sensory-perceptual data. However, that is not enough by itself, it then requires proper concept formation. She has done the work to show, for the first time in history, how that can be done so that reason does NOT produce , “two, three, four, or even more options — each one reasonable”.

    Because she starts all understanding from the nature (identity) of the object (thing) being considered –not the preconceptions of the person/subject doing the considering– she named her philosophy “Objectivism”.

    You are blaming the first philosopher in history who corrected the very fault you you are blaming her for.


  2. That may be RnBram. I don’t pretend to be an expert on Ayn Rand. Nevertheless, I stand by my notion that reason alone is not enough, and that reason must be checked and disciplined by observation to arrive at useful truths.


  3. Paul, your criticism applies to Rationalism–a school of thought in philosophy that stands opposed to empiricism (or observation based knowledge), not to Objectivism–the philosophy that Rand developed, in which reason is inseperable from all the epistemic activities possible to a human consciousness–including observation, deduction, and induction.


  4. After reading this quote; I’m led to believe the truth in my friend’s statement about Rand.

    There are only two kinds of people. Those who love Rand and those who hate.

    Oh, and I have realized that I belong to the latter.


  5. This thing called reason?

    What is it?

    A legal term? Justification? Defense? Apologia?

    What about rationalization? Or a seeking of vindication?

    So what is this thing called reason?

    And, please, do not make me read Ayn Rand.


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