Sunday, March 9, 2008

What Ever Happened to Reason? By Roger Scruton

The Enlightenment made explicit what had long been implicit in the intellectual life of Europe: the belief that rational inquiry leads to objective truth. Even those Enlightenment thinkers who distrusted reason, like Hume, and those who tried to circumscribe its powers, like Kant, never relinquished their confidence in rational argument. Hume opposed the idea of a rational morality; but he justified the distinction between right and wrong in terms of a natural science of the emotions, taking for granted that we could discover the truth about human nature and build on that firm foundation. Kant may have dismissed "pure reason" as a tissue of illusions, but he elevated practical reason in the place of it, arguing for the absolute validity of the moral law. For the ensuing 200 years, reason retained its position as the arbiter of truth and the foundation of objective knowledge.

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