Slagle Essay, Research Paper
1. How does direct reason differ from garden variety intuition? Well,garden-variety intuition is one species of direct reason, I suppose. Just as our deductions can be known with greater or lesser degrees ofprecision and certainty, so too can our direct reasonings be knownwith greater or lesser degrees of precision and certainty. And I take”garden-variety intuition” to be that sub-group of our direct reasoningswhich are known with unusually low degrees of precision and certainty. Also, garden-variety intuition is probably less self-critical andthoughtful than our better direct reasonings are; that is, garden-varietintuition is probably our knee-jerk reaction, whereas something knownwell through direct reason is reached after reflection and careful thought. 2. How does direct reason differ from divine revelation? Well, I presumethat you don’t believe in divine revelation, and neither do I. Divinerevelation is supposed to be insight that you receive directly fromGod or the like, which is evident to neither direct reason, indirectreason, or observation. But perhaps your real question is: Aren’t direct reason and divinerevelation on epistemological par, being unfounded and outrageousclaims to “knowledge” without any basis? Well, I think that lookingat a philosopher like Aquinas will shed a little light on this. Basically, philosophers who believed in revelation also frequentlybelieved in “the natural light of reason,” which is probably yetanother synonym for direct reason. And they carefully distinguishedthe two. Things known by the natural light of reason could be known
by a noble pagan who merely used his intellect to consider the claimin question, whereas things known by revelation could not just be figuredout. Thus, Aquinas believed that God’s existence could be known byreason, whereas the Christian God could be known only by revelation. Now leaving aside his questionable proofs, the interesting thing is thateven people who believed in relevation realized that some things areknown by the immediate application of reason. They had both concepts,but found the distinction between them clear enough. But what is it that’s really bugging you about direct reason? I suspectthat it is the popular but mistaken notion that everything must be”proven.” But of course that can’t be true, because first of all itleads to an infinite regress, since you would then have to prove yourproofs, prove the proofs of your proofs, and so on. And second of allit is impossible because a proof only yields truth if its premises aretrue, and hence on pain of circularity some premises must be known withoutproof. Or perhaps its because of the related notion that intuition is unreliableand must be “formalized.” I see it the other way around — formalizationstend to falsify and oversimplify rather than lending extra clarity. Unlessthe relationship is extremely narrow to begin with. Haven’t you ever made an argument and found that another person just couldn’t”get it?” If you clearly saw that the argument was valid, did it matterthat the other person couldn’t see it? That’s what I think about directreason. I see that some things are true objectively. And if other peopledon’t see it, why should that shake my confidence?