Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Let's Get Real - Whatever That Means

A thoughtful and thought provoking commenter at Where the Rubber Hits The Road - Martin, who writes cogently from an anti-religious bias responded to Father Tim's linking to my posting on "Rational Human Beings - An Oxymoron" as I hoped he would, and expected that he might.  It was his use of the word "RATIONAL" in a previous comment thread that had prompted my article in the first place.
On matters religious, Martin and I are not likely to reach accord, and he seems to hold in some measure of disdain many things religious.  He, like Small Town Guy, Father Tim's most prolific anti-Catholic commenter makes it a point to share his opinions from time to time.

Here is what he said in the comment thread on my article at Father Tim's blog:
Hi Michael,

An interesting and thoughtful reflection on what it means to be "rational".

I often suspect that "rational" is more of an aspirational goal for our species than something we actually possess.

To clarify - when I used the word "rational", I used it in the following 2 senses:

a) logically consistent and internally coherent
b) grounded in reality

I think some religous folks can be logically consistent and internally coherent. If one accepts their many premises about reality, then one may rightly conclude that much of what they say and do is quite rational in the sense of (a).

As you might suspect, I part company with many religious folks when their premises are not grounded in reality. While their premises MIGHT be true, these premises are often inconsistent with reality and therefore not rational in the sense of (b).

Having said this - I readily acknowledge that some religous views are neither logically consistent, internally conherent, nor are they grounded in reality. I think we have all met folks who would fit that description.

I apologize if my use of the word "rational" was confusing or sounded condescending. I intended neither.

So, basically in the original article I wrote, I came to the conclusion in more words than this, that
"rational" is a relative term, and as I said in my own comment on the thread, it is elusive. 

So, in explaining his meaning of rational, Martin concluded that the term has two senses:
a) logically consistent and internally coherent

b) grounded in reality
But, again like rational, both of these are relative terms.  I concur that they pick up the flavour of the word rational.

The key word though is "reality."  It is interesting that Martin said in reference to "religious people" that their premises thought they "MIGHT be true", "these premises are often inconsistent with reality ."

Reality is defined in the Merriam Webster dictionary as follows:
1: the quality or state of being real

2a (1) : a real event, entity, or state of affairs
(2) : the totality of real things and events
b : something that is neither derivative nor dependent but exists necessarily
So, I am challenged to understand how something MIGHT be true, but not grounded in reality.  However, I do not think that Martin mispoke as much as he presented conventional wisdom.  Conventional wisdom is another really good oxymoron.

Are people who agree with me dealing with reality whereas those who do not agree with me are not?  And is anyone grounded in reality, or is reality too fluffy a word to put boundaries on?

Albert Enistein said this about reality:
Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.
John Lennon had this to say about reality:
A dream you dream alone is only a dream. A dream you dream together is reality.
John Lennon is not available to answer the question that comes to my mind reading his quote, but if he were here in my reality I would ask him how many dreamers it takes to make something real.  On the other hand, I can't ask Einstein for further explanation either, though I think his statement is sufficient unto itself.

The problem with words and terms like "rational", "consistent", "coherent", and "realistic" is that they are like "beauty" - found only, or at least, in the eyes of the beholder.

Speaking of beauty, maybe we can recall the closing lines of John Keats Ode on a Grecian Urn from 1819:
"Beauty is truth; truth, beauty -- that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know."
All the above not withstanding, I consider myself a rational human being.  I am a husband, a father, hold a university degree, and was qualified as a Chartered Accountant.  At 60 years of age, I am not the brightest bulb in the pack, but with the age of compact flourescents, I get some brightness out of my lower wattage.  I believe that what I write is both logically consistent and internally coherent, and for me, at least totally realistic.

One time I wrote about a particular miraculous healing of arthritis that happened for me here.
I was raised in the Roman Catholic Church, and walked away from my faith at age 20, when I believed at the time that it was not "logically consistent and internally coherent", and also for me at the time was not "totally realistic."  Over the ensuing decade, I had occasion to learn that the lack of consistency and coherence was in me, not in the Church and Christianity.

So, what is reality anyway? 

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