Passionate Reason

Part of the American University Publications in Philosophy book series (MNPL, volume 29)


Traditionally the role of decision and commitment in the cognitive process, either within the process itself or at its foundation, has been underplayed, constantly underestimated, and frequently ignored. In spite of Quine’s acknowledgement that the acceptance of the basic principles of scientific philosophy are analogous to faith in the Homeric gods little attention has been focused upon such decisional features or posits within a philosophical position.1 In spite of the fact that Hilary Putnam can conclude the recent presentation of his Carus Lectures with the claim that there is no ultimate justification and with the most “existential” (almost Lutheran) affirmation, “Here is where I plant my sword,” the voluntarism of such an affirmation remains neglected.2 Even though Karl Popper’s defense of reason is claimed as a non-rational move and the authority of the rational is grounded on the irrational, such decisional features remain largely unexposed.3 Even though Karl-Otto Apel has recently reminded us that,

“Wittgenstein, of course, did not provide an ‘empirical criterion’ for the elementary propositions that are compatible with reality, but rather he postulates the existence of such propositions and the ‘states of affairs’ correlated with them merely as the basis for the intelligibility of meaningful propositions,”4


Contemporary Philosophy Philosophical Position Decisional Feature Ancient Philosophy Elementary Proposition 
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  1. I.
    “Physical objects are conceptually imparted into the situation as convenient intermediaries — not by definition in terms of experience, but simply as irreducible posits comparable, epistemologically, to the gods of Homer…. But in point of epistemological footing the physical objects and the gods differ only in degree and not in kind. Both sorts of entities enter our conception only as cultural posits.” W. V. O. Quine, From A Logical Point Of View (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1953) p. 44.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    These lectures were presented at meetings of the Eastern Division of The American Philosophical Association in Dec. 1985.Google Scholar
  3. 3a.
    “A problem, however, with Popper is that his “rationalism” lies in the quicksand of an irrational commitment.... If one becomes a partisan of it, one must accept it on faith, an “irrational” faith as it were,...” F. Merrell, Deconstruction Reframed (West Lafayette: Purdue University Press, 1985).Google Scholar
  4. 3b.
    See also A. O’Hear, Karl Popper (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1980).Google Scholar
  5. 4.
    K-O. Apel, Towards A Transformation Of Philosophy (London: Rutledge & Kegan Paul, 1980). p. 40.Google Scholar
  6. 5.
    H. Albert, Treatise on Critical Reason (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1985).Google Scholar
  7. 6.
    L. Gilkey, Religion And The Scientific Future (Macon: Mercer University Press, 1981, p. 47, originally published by New York: Harper & Row, 1970).Google Scholar
  8. 7.
    Ibid., p. 46.Google Scholar
  9. 8.
  10. 9.
    Ibid., p. 48.Google Scholar
  11. 10.
    Ibid., p. 46.Google Scholar
  12. 11.
    Ibid., p. 47.Google Scholar
  13. 12.
    For an excellent discussion of the role of the will and the reason in Kant see Hans Reiner, Duty And Inclination (The Hague: M. Nijhoff, 1983), especially pp. 112–230. Even Reiner, however, from my perspective, leaves the relationship of the reason and the will somewhat ambiguous.Google Scholar
  14. 13.
    For a more extensive discussion of this issue see H. A. Durfee, “Ultimate Meaning And Presuppositionless Philosophy” Ultimate Reality And Meaning, 6 (1983) 244–262.Google Scholar
  15. 14.
    H. A. Durfee, “Metaphilosophy In The Shadow Of Kierkegaard,” in J. H. Smith, Kierkegaard’s Truth: The Disclosure of The Self, Psychiatry And The Humanities, Vol. 5 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1981).Google Scholar
  16. 15.
    H. Richard Niebuhr, The Meaning of Revelation (New York: Macmillan, 1941) p.p. 109–110.Google Scholar
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    A. Dihle, The Theory Of The Will In Classical Antiquity (Berkeley: University Of California Press, 1982).Google Scholar
  18. 17.
    P. Lorenzen, “Ethics And The Philosophy Of Science,” in D. E. Christensen, Contemporary German Philosophy, Vol. I (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1982) pp. 10–11.Google Scholar
  19. 18a.
    L. Shestoy, Potestas Clavium (Athens: Ohio University Press, 1968) P. 68. K-O. Apel, Towards A Transformation Of Philosophy.Google Scholar
  20. 18b.
    See also K-O. Apel, “The Question Of The Rationality Of Social Interaction,” in K. K. Cho, Philosophy And Science In Phenomenological Perspective (The Hague: M. Nijhoff, 1968) p. 47. For further study of the centrality of voluntarism in contemporary philosophy, especially contemporary British ethics,Google Scholar
  21. 18c.
    see S. Lovibond, Realism And Imagination In Ethics (Minneapolis: University Of Minnesota Press, 1983).Google Scholar
  22. 19.
    L. Gilkey, pp. 50–51.Google Scholar
  23. 20.
    D. Pears, Motivated Irrationality (London: Oxford University Press, 1984).Google Scholar
  24. 21.
    J. Stambaugh, The Real Is Not The Rational (Albany: State University Of New York Press, 1986).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, Dordrecht 1987

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The American UniversityUSA

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