On Wisdom: Principles: Reason

Music: Passacaglia and Fugue in C minor.
By J.S. Bach. Sequenced by George Pollen.

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Nicholas Gordon

1. Reason is the editor of wisdom, examining, affirming, and sustaining its principles and practices.

2. One may affirm what is unreasonable, but only by an act of will, whereas to affirm what is reasonable comes naturally. This is because the principles of reason, like those of mathematics, are both intuitive and well tested by experience over time.

3. Wisdom, to be wisdom, cannot be coerced or received passively, but must be affirmed by one's own reason, tested against one's own experience and heart.

4. Unaided reason, however, cannot be trusted. Its principles are sound, but its application is problematic, since reason is often the tool of self-interest, or based on faulty observation, or swayed by desire. Thus reason must always be tested against continued observation, experience, intuition, feeling, and the opinions of others over time.

5. Truth lies in shadow, to be discerned only by sunlight as it travels across the sky, shining from a variety of angles.

6. Wisdom, therefore, even if affirmed by reason quickly, is acquired slowly, over a lifetime of careful observation, thought, conversation, and feeling.

7. Because first questions, such as the origin and nature of being, or the relation of time to eternity, are beyond the scope of reason, they are also beyond the scope of wisdom, which can function without reference to them. That is why the wisdom of various philosophies and religions can be so similar while their theologies and metaphysics are so different.


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