Thursday, November 1, 2007

Can reason exist without faith?

I consider myself a highly rational individual. I like to take my decisions based on reason than on anything else. People normally allow a lot of emotions, sentiments, and habits affect their decisions. It is not that emotions or other factors does not affect my decision making but rather I try to limit the influence of all these factors from my decision making.

This might sound pretty simple and straightforward but on the contrary it is a very tough task. Sometimes, when you have other people involved in the decision making or when other people are affected by the decision made, taking a purely rational decision might even become impossible.

So what is a rational decision? A rational decision is a decision based on reason. And what is reason? Princeton's wordweb defines it as a fact that logically justifies a premise or a conclusion. So a rational decision is based on already proven theories and facts that further validate the theories. So applying a system of pure reason somebody else will be able to validate the decision to be true under the given rationale.

A rational decision is very likely to be the right decision under normal circumstances. Nobody makes decisions with an intention to make it wrong. So those people who take decisions based on other factors other than reason make them under the belief that these decisions are going to be correct. These decisions can therefore be classified as faith based decisions. They will believe that their decisions are going to be correct because the system that validates their decisions while they are being made is a system based not on rationale. Under their faith based system their decisions will be validated to be true. Somebody else subscribing to the same faith based system will be able to validate the decision, but this would be very unlike, if somebody applying a system of pure reason tries to validate it.

From the above reasoning we might be deceived to get to a conclusion that a rational system would be better than any faith based system. However on closer examination we can see a more interesting aspect. Take any rational system, it would have a set of fundamental axioms. These are theories that are considered correct because they have been proved to be correct in all observed cases and they have not been disproved by any cases. Rational systems are built around these fundamental axioms. So if you have to accept the system to be correct then you have to assume that the axiom is correct. So your rational decision ultimately depends on your faith that the axiom is correct.

It could be argued that axioms have not been disproved and that the probability of a rational system going wrong is far, far smaller than that for faith based systems. Yes these arguments hold, but my point is just that even rational systems have to depend on faith. So at some subliminal way you are still depending on faith even when you are supposedly making purely rational decisions. I rest my case.


  1. Hi
    On seeing your reasoned exposition, I too feel the same way. By the wat, have you read " philosophy, who needs it" by Ayn Rand ? Looks like you have read it, just asking for confirmation. Bye for now.

  2. I have read Fountainhead, Atlas shrugged and Anthem but not that one.

  3. Reason without faith is empty and void, and faith without reason is blind and darkness.