September 26th, 2011 // 3:51 am @ Oliver DeMille
Aquinas held that angels are intellectual beings because they know all things, while men are merely rational beings because they know little and therefore must figure things out.
Since each person must reason out each answer on his own to really use reason, the fact that others have outlined their thinking at every step makes reason easier to follow and to expand upon than intuition. Also, the argument goes, reason can be used to analyze and test intuition, while the opposite is seldom true.
The Bible discounted this view, comparing the rationalist “goats” with the more obedient and intuitive “sheep.” In much of Western culture, the term “sheep” became a negative name given to those who refuse to think things through.
Religious icon Aquinas, who certainly cannot be accused of not thinking things through,[i] argued that those who trust God’s full knowledge more than man’s limited knowledge are in fact more rational than those who believe in man’s abilities.
Ultimately, Aristotle taught, all demonstration rests on certain indemonstrable truths. Human rationalism can extend our understanding, as can science, but it cannot prove or disprove every detail.
However, rationalism is based on the assumption that there are truths in the universe, and that the use of our minds can help us learn these truths. In fact, modernism is based on this same concept.
For example, if there are no universal truths then math, logic and the scientific method are all flawed and useless. All of these depend on the ability to discover and detect truths that are out there.
Reason is the most democratic thinking method to date because it holds that each individual person can use it without depending on experts or elites.
In fact, it is how the regular people can analyze and test the words and assurances of the experts and elites. The other major methods of arriving at truth—from science, math and logic to theology, aestheticism and credentialism—depend on the assurances of experts.
Jefferson goes as far as saying that the people are bound by duty to use reason as they oversee government. The committee of founders which approved The Declaration of Independence agreed with this assessment.
A free people is a deep-thinking, well-read, independent-thinking people.
[i] His works are the longest and among the most logically and meticulously argued of the great books.