Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Limits of the rational

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I had numerous dreams last night on the limits of reason—of rational, analytic thought. Perhaps the articles referenced in this post had been swirling around in my unconscious mind (itself an instance of the power of nonrational processes: for example, how a skill is mastered by practice, not by rational analysis–rational analysis and careful reasoning about how a basketball shot is made cannot substitute for practicing the shot, in terms of success). Gödel’s Theorem, like Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle, becomes a useful metaphor with applications beyond its actual finding. Just as the Uncertainty Principle becomes applied to any situation in which having an observer perturbs the observations, Gödel’s Theorem serves as a useful shorthand for true statements unreachable by rational means.

Consider, for example, the impact a great painting might have. While rational considerations—the composition, the colors, the technique, the place of the painting in its artistic and social context—can expand the experience, the immediate impact and experience of seeing the painting takes place not on the rational level. Moreover, it’s not purely a sensual experience: the mind is involved, but the non-rational component of the experience is the driving force.

In my dream, this was expressed in a kind of Tron-like logical virtual construction in which I was a participant, but kept having to interrupt to respond to physical and non-rational needs—ultimately, to having to wake up and go pee.

Written by Leisureguy

6 August 2008 at 9:11 am

Posted in Daily life

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