Thoughts on authority and its relation to logic and reason

Over the years I’ve talked with many people, in the U.S., about various things.  In so doing I’ve noticed a particular condition that keeps coming up.  Basically, what I have found is that it’s almost pointless to say anything.  No matter what you say it can be refuted in some way . . . or it has no meaning . . . or it has no value.  It does not matter if you’re right . . . or wrong, for that matter, as it means nothing.  It’s as if logic and reason has no meaning any more.  This creates a lot of problems as the purpose of discussion is to find the logic and the reason in things.  When this is non-existent it creates a general dilemma in discussions.  Basically, it null and voids them.  It gives discussions a quality of talking to a wall.  It’s pointless to have discussions with people anymore.   There is no convincing.  There is no agreeing.  There is no logic.  There is no reason.

Years ago, there used to be a “right” in logic or reason.  If something “made sense” it was accepted as true.   In conversations, all you had to do is show this “sense” and everyone would agree.  This is how things got done in the world.  It seems to me that this is now hampered.

What all this seems to show, at least to me, is that we are dealing with a problem with authority.  To put it simply:  logic or reason needs authority.  In many ways, logic and reason is nothing but a demonstration of authority.  Logic and reason is a reference, really, to the fact that it complies with some “authority”.  When this authority isn’t there then there is no power in discussions, in ideas, in thoughts, in conversations.  It makes them almost useless. 

In many ways, this shows that the power of discussion is not the idea’s necessarily but the authority demonstrated.  Being brought up with science, Americanism, and all that, I was always taught that it was the ideas that mattered, as if they were an entity in themselves . . . the “idea” revealed the “truth”.  This perspective tended to look at ideas as a ‘creation’ that “I” created.  This point of view is something that became really big in the U.S. as it reflected American individualistic attitudes.  This gave it the illusion that it was something separate, of what a person created.  Now I can see that this is not true.  In actuality, it was “true” because it actually conformed to some “accepted” authority in some way, not because “I” created it and demonstrated a “truth”. 

As a result, it seems that it is the authority behind the ideas that mattered the most.  That is what made them “relevent” and “true”.  In other words, the “real power” of ideas was the authority behind the ideas and not the idea itself.  The idea is really more like a “signpost”, so to speak, than anything else.  It’s a sign of an authority, a beacon of it.  In many cases, ideas can sit for years, even centuries, until there is some “authority” to make it “true”.  Always, ideas are waiting for authority to make it true.  Without that authority they are useless.  The way that ideas get their authority is by the use of accepted logic and reason.  This gives a connection much like:

authority<<<<<logic and reason>>>>>idea

This makes it so that logic and reason are critical in the manifestation of authority.  As a result,  how and why logic and reason substantiate and reflect authority become critical issues.  Some of the qualities that seem to give logic and reason authority include:

  • They are reflective of the culture and belief system.  That is to say, what the perspectives the culture and belief system says is “authority” makes the logic and sense true. 
  • They are reflective of an abstract thinking.  By abstraction I mean that it reflects a common point of view that a bulk of the people tend to view as correct.  These tend to be a reflection of common sense and practicality and has an absence of culture and belief system or personal viewpoints.  This quality makes it “abstract” or “impersonal”.  A good example is the common knowledge most people have that if you stand out in the rain you will get wet.  This tends to make “abstract thinking” as something that transcend cultures.  It includes mentalities such as science and law.
  • They are reflective of personal points of view.  We all have points of view, based on our experience and character, that make certain ideas true and relevent.  Often, these may have no meaning to someone else. 
  • They are reflective of social trend.  Each historic era has its ways of doing things which reflect its authority.  This makes it so that each historic era has its logic and reason to substantiate its authority.  Typically, this logic and reason is different that other historic era’s.  Because of this, it reflects the social trend of that historic era.  As a result, what is “true” in one historic era can easily become “wrong” in the next historic era.

These all show that logic and reason, which are used to substantiate authority, has many origins and forms.  This makes it so that there is never a “one” logic and authority.  This, as we know, is a big factor in many disputes and conflicts between people.  It makes it so that logic and reason is always changing, always transforming, and never creating a finished and final form. 

As a result of this, we all make “concessions” of our logic and reason for the greater good.  What I mean by this is that we will “accept” a logic and reason even if it conflicts with our logic and reason or if we don’t agree with it in some way.  This is usually done to acknowledge an authority in some way, such as the fact that we are part of a society.  In some sense, we are “submitting” to this authority.  This “submission by concession” tends to make us conform and “agree” which often unifies us as people.  As a result, these ‘concessions of logic and reason’ are one of the things that create an ordered and peaceful society as well as making us a unified whole. 

When we have discussions with people, we are either trying to make people make concessions or people are trying to make us make concessions.  In short, discussing things with people requires a concession to be made somewhere along the line. Usually, if a concession is not made then there is typically no completion to the discussion or argument.  Because of this, there becomes something like a ‘schism’ between the two people, a ‘schism by no concessions’.   This is because they are not accepting a ‘common authority’.  Without the acceptance of ‘common authority’ the schism remains.  They are like two people following different leaders.  Depending on the situation, and conversation, its effects can range from something of no consequence to something that turns into bad feelings. 

Whats also interesting is that a lot of “learning” is nothing but a person “submitting  by concession”.  In many ways, all learning consist of is making concessions.  All we do when we “learn” is make concessions to logic and reason.  This is another form of conforming or agreeing that makes us a unified people.  It shows that “learning” is really nothing but an acceptance of a ‘common authority’.

I should especially point out how abstract thought transcends cultures.  This is probably one of the reasons why things are becoming more abstract nowadays, because of our more international situation nowadays.  They used to say that Latin was the international language, or French, or English.  Things have gone beyond language now, and have gone beyond simple communication.  Now we have to have an “international language of association”.  This seems to consist of the use of abstract ideas, which reflect common mentalities all people have, as I described above.  As a result, it transcends and goes beyond culture and belief system.  If we had to associate with one another based on culture and belief system we’d be in continuous disagreement with one another.  As a result, it has made abstract thought necessary for international relations.   Examples of this abstract thought include such things as science, law, and formalities.  These tend to be very “formal”, very “rigid”, very “impersonal”, and have nothing to do with culture, belief, and personal viewpoints.  But, being this way, it is really a “half-baked” way of associating with people.  This is because it is very partial and incomplete.  In some ways, its like associating with people with sign language.  This makes international relations very ‘touchy’ and incomplete but, at this time, it’s all that works . . . at least as near as I can tell.

This is a good example of how humanity needs a ‘common authority’ in human relations.  Without this authority communication, agreeing, conforming, unifying, etc. is greatly hampered, if it can happen at all.  In fact, it seems to me that ‘common authority’ is a necessary prerequisite for associating with people

The U.S., in particular, has a particular problem with this issue of authority as they hacked their own authority structure to death . . . in the name of freedom and democracy.  In so doing, they hampered their own relations by their own ideals and created a situation where a ‘common authority’ cannot be agreed upon.  As a result of the lack of this ‘common authority’ it makes it so no one agrees.  Remember, in this country we are “free to believe what we want”.  That sounds good politically but it leaves no ‘common authority’ for the people.  As a result, it makes it so that things such as discussions are often never agreed upon or completed.   It creates a condition where ‘schisms’ are commonplace.  This ‘schism’ quality is what I sensed when I talked with people and found it was pointless to talk to people, as I described at the beginning.  It makes it so that anything said is nothing or meaningless.  It makes it so that everything can be refuted.  It makes it so that no one agrees.  In effect, the lack of a ‘common authority’, in the end, divides people and prevents a unifying element.  This is the situation the U.S. is in now.  This is what I see when I discuss things with many Americans.

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2 Responses to Thoughts on authority and its relation to logic and reason

  1. Disillusioned says:

    It is also my experience that reason and logic are of no value in discussions. Worse still, the result is often anger and personal assaults when I point out a contradiction, inconsistency, factual error, or logical fallacy in the verbal expressions of another person. They do not want their theories or beliefs put to any kind of test. As you say; reason and logic become meaningless. The US culture embraces denial, and narcissism runs rampant. People who are preoccupied with validating a grandiose self-image do not tolerate any challenge and lash out against the source of it. A narcissist will not participate in a civil discussion; explore ideas and search for truth. His only interest is to overpower and dominate.

    There is some resistance to this unfortunate degradation of the American intellect. Here is an article that is a pleasure to read:

    ‘No, you are not entitled to your opinion’
    http://wp.me/p1QBLT-8e

  2. I think you are completely right that subjectivism has yielded a situation in which real argument is next to impossible. In the absence of a common authority, all we are left with is propaganda (emotivist appeals) designed to coax others into distributing resources or rights in a way that suits our taste. Cut off from the logos structure of reality (as subjectivism brings about), subjective personal feelings, that may be irreconcilable, are all that remain.

    I’ve been writing quite a bit lately on the intersection between reason and authority. But I’ve been coming at it from a somewhat different angle. Check it out if you want; I started with this little piece on reason and prejudice http://thedemocracyofthedead.wordpress.com/2013/07/20/reason-and-prejudice/, then tried to clarify the nature of reason itself http://thedemocracyofthedead.wordpress.com/2013/08/12/tradition-constituted-rationality/, and the nature of culture http://thedemocracyofthedead.wordpress.com/2013/08/16/t-s-eliot-and-culture/.

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