Circular Reasoning

Posted on September 16, 2011 by


Yinyang embodies the harmony of heaven and earth, manifests the forms of myriad things, contains qi [vital energy] to transform the things and completes various kinds of things; yinyang extends and penetrates to the deepest level; begins in emptiness then becomes full and moves in boundless lands. – Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Either we are rational spirit obliged for ever to obey the absolute values of the Tao [natural law], or else we are mere nature to be kneaded and cut into new shapes for the pleasures of masters who must, by hypothesis, have no motive but their own ‘natural’ impulses. Only the Tao provides a common human law of action which can over-arch rulers and ruled alike. A dogmatic belief in objective value is necessary to the very idea of a rule which is not tyranny or an obedience which is not slavery. – C.S. Lewis in The Abolition of Man

In the comments to Sunlight Through Stained Glass, Clarence wrote, “Some might say you gave up the struggle for rationality to embrace mysticism.” As you may have surmised from the above quotes, unless you surmised that I’m trying to convert this place to Traditional Taoism, I disagree with Clarence’s take on my return from the wilderness. As stated in the masthead, we value complementarity. Faith without logic is headless; logic without faith is heartless. As I am interested in being neither Ichabod nor the horseman, I choose both.

The faithful cannot eschew either logic or feelings if we are to avoid tyranny or slavery. Tyranny need not originate outside us, it might originate in our minds. Slavery need not be an external force, it might spring forth from our emotion. Our faith instead forms a circle in which the logic feeds into the feeling feeds into the logic. Our rationality allows us to believe the Word and this belief, this knowledge, allows us to feel the Spirit. This complementary relationship precludes blind devotion to the tyranny of pure logic or unexamined fealty to our Lord. As written in Proverbs:

A simple man believes anything, but a prudent man gives thought to his steps. (14:15)

It is not good to have zeal without knowledge, nor to be hasty and miss the way. (19:2)

In the comments to my post on intelligence and attractiveness, Brendan the Wandering Sage discussed the relationship between logic and emotion:

We live in a society which heavily, heavily encourages people to feel first and think later, and we see the results. That doesn’t mean one needs to be depressive. It means one needs one’s head to rule one’s heart — I am with David on this. Perhaps that’s because I am also dispositionally attuned to that, but it’s also sound from the mental point of view –> feel your feelings rather than suppressing them, but do not become attached to them. Have perspective on them.

That perspective is the logical boundary that allows our faith to move from empty feelings, from the cafeteria, to boundless lands. Chastity, prayer, obedience, and good deeds are not our default desires. Rather, they are desires we cultivate by listening to our logical minds and opening ourselves to the experiences which transcend our flesh and stomachs. But by cultivating those logical desires, we experience the joy that flows from our fealty. By cultivating those desires, we accept the circular nature of our faith. We feel because we ask to feel, but we do not subjugate our logical faith to those feelings. We think because we were blessed with minds, but we do not subjugate the mystery of the world to the propensities of the mind. We are carried forth in our journey by both the weight and the blessing, the harmony of heaven and earth.

Blessed is the man who doesn’t walk in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stand in the way of sinners,
nor sit in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in Yahweh’s law.
On his law he meditates day and night.
He will be like a tree planted by the streams of water,
that brings forth its fruit in its season,
whose leaf also does not wither.
Whatever he does shall prosper.
-Psalm 1: 1-3

Posted in: Religion