Rationalism, empiricism and phantom extremities
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Manu Herrán
Subjectivity, Philosophy, Reality

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Versión en español publicada en el Blog de Vivelibre

Apology of rationalism ...

Epilepsy has historically been considered the "sacred disease" because of its connection with altered states of consciousness linked to a strong religiosity and mysticism. In Spain suffer some 400,000 people and many of us have been and seremos- witnesses of epileptic seizures, so it is certainly advisable to have some basic understanding of how to act in front of these crises. Fortunately, today we have a scientific explanation of its origin, including hereditary factors, injuries, tumors and poisoning, among others. It is no longer necessary to invoke a supernatural component to explain the episodes.

Sickness and disability do not have a divine origin, and are not the consequence of any sin. Especially since the seventeenth century, rationalism prevailed the use of reason against other considerations such as superstition, myth, intuition, authority or faith. The progress of this new approach was extraordinary. In parallel, and as a reaction to medieval thought , the emerged empiricism defended as valid knowledge that is obtained from the senses.

The problem with empiricism is that it serves to show almost anything. We have the experience that things fall "down", although we now know that "down" does not exist; At least, does not exist objectively. "Down" is a misleading, or at least subjective, concept at the local level. We also have the experience that the Sun revolves around the Earth, when we know that it is the opposite. The theory heliocentric is better than the geocentric , and this is a victory of rationalism versus empiricism; A victory of reason versus experience.

... and rebuttal

The truth is that the Earth revolves around the sun exactly. Neither the sun revolves around the Earth , but both revolve around the center of mass , as two skaters on an ice rink holding hands. The center of mass of the solar system is, indeed, within the sun, but not at its center.

To return to the subject, the empiricists criticize the rationalists saying that all knowledge, even the rational, comes, ultimately, from experience. And in my opinion, they are right, since we are experience. Ultimately, all we do is feel, experience. While it is true that convergent experiences speak to us of a single material objective world "out there", the only thing we can be completely sure of is subjective experience. The objective world "out there" we're not completely sure, but almost completely safe.

If I see a tree, if I observe the fall of the sun, or if I have pain in the leg, and then I speak of this with others - and unless I am lying - others may be completely sure that I have seen a tree, Of the sun, and that I have had pain in the leg.

Even if the leg does not exist.

According to various studies, approximately 65% of amputations individuals manifest continue receiving the missing limb, referring especially painful sensations. They do not complain of pain in the stump, something that would be understandable: they complain of pain in the limb that no longer exists. Rationalism, and his son materialism (or physicalism ) are in serious trouble to interpret this. How can a leg hurt that does not exist? That is a logical contradiction.It does not seem rational.

Are maths invented or discovered?

Let's review the matter again. The different perceptions we have (and particularly, the visual ones) converge towards a specific, objective material external world where water weighs more than oil. Curiously, something similar happens with Platonic ideas, such as mathematics, which also converge towards a set of certain truths, where the length of a circumference is equal to the diameter multiplied by a curious number that we call Pi. If it is the convergence of subjective experiences that gives credibility to the physical world, should not the convergence of mathematical ideas give credence to the Platonic world of mathematics?

If I thought that oil weighed more than water (something intuitive for many people) or that the length of the circumference is seven times the diameter, I would be wrong. In the first case it is the experience (empiricism) that can get me out of my error by a simple experiment. In the second case it is true that we can use the experience and measure circumferences, but we can also use deductive methods , using reason (rationalism) applied on a combination ofaxioms and theorems previous.

And if reason told me that legs that do not exist do not hurt, and the senses told me that the leg can not hurt, because I do not see it?

Neither consensual rationalism nor consensual empiricism can win all the battles. Cultural phenomena, the valuation of experiences or the perception of oneself are diverse and not always convergent. Each of us has a unique inner world, and a unique perception of himself, including his own body. Appreciate or reject the poems of Catullus, fun or get bored with the game of ludo, and feel that it hurts or not - a 'non - existent' standing are subjective, intimate, real issues, on which we can talk and discuss and indeed it We do - but we will never prove their invalidity because by their subjective nature, they are true by definition.

This unquestionable nature of the subjective subjective reality of people is fundamental to approach them when they suffer and need support. Each person is unique and lives their experiences in a unique way. In some cases we will hit without asking but in most cases, no. We need to pay attention and understand. Many people need to be heard. Others prefer not to speak at certain times and value simply be accompanied (and therefore the meta-questions like "Want to talk?" Are so valuable, even if paradoxical). I insist: each person is unique. Some seem to resist stoically the hardest situations while others seem downcast by trivia. Who suffers the most? Intimate experience is not self-evident. That's why communication and sincerity are so important. Rationalism and empiricism are extraordinary tools, but sometimes they are not enough. What can complete them? Empathy. Get in the other's shoes. The key is to look with which we look at the other.



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