Cosmos and History: The Journal of Natural and Social Philosophy, Vol 12, No 1 (2016)

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On Having Faith in a Living Reason: Or, Why You Can't Get There from Here

Murray Code


In proposing to tell a Lamarckian story about evolution, Samuel Butler not only put into question the good sense of the neo-Darwinian approach which presupposes the adequacy of the modern conception of of good reasoning. Modelled on systematic (e.g., logico-mathematical) ratiocination, this conception, he intimates, bespeaks a sick culture that actually betrays reason by elevating techno-scientific ingenuity to a god-like status. Evidence for this serious charge is afforded by neuroscientists who maintain, for instance, that consciousness can be `explained' in terms of electro-chemical events in material brains. This reductive approach to the great themes of Life and Thought degrades the complex relationships between living and thinking. In this paper I propose to show that Butler's approach to naturalistic story-telling can be extended in such a way as to illustrate what Owen Barfield calls a `living reason'; that is, a vitalistic form of reasoning that may help remedy a cultural malaise that is threatening the long-term health of this civilization, if not the entire world.

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