Saturday, October 30, 2010

Physicist as Romantic

ql at eschaton decided that, based on the post below, I am a Romantic. Guilty as charged, I guess. I've been accused, sometimes justly, of far worse.

Part of my questioning of an uncritical embrace of the Enlightenment arises out of personal experience: for me, romanticism has been mostly positive; egotistical self-actualization has (mostly) yielded to an extension of self into nature, music, thought, others, and allowed, even in dark personal and political times, a bit of optimism pushing me through the next day. I self-consciously tried 'rationality', growing up in math/physics, and found, in the end, the separation between rationality and emotion is superficial and even dubious even in hard science, that 'rationality' wasn't enough, didn't account for a lot of what I came to value. My feelings about the Dawkins/Harris/Dennett sort of militant atheist critique of religion come from here, too: their vision of both religion and science, if generally accepted, wouldn't purify so much as limit.


Anonymous said...

As I pointed out over at Eschaton, the "Reason" of the Enlightenment was not pure logic, but rationality informed by our "better natures", our basic humanity. Logic is a *tool* of Reason, not the definition of it. Therein lies where most folks make their mistakes.

We haven't got enough "rationality", enough Reason, so I have a tendency to react badly to those that denigrate it (not you, you know to whom I refer in specific and in general). What has irrationality done for us? (not NON-rationality, IRrationality... think of it as my version of NOMA).

I cannot emphasise enough that we need MORE reason, more rationality, more sanity. And although I'm not a big follower of the Gnu Atheists in general (I lived it, don't need to read it), I appreciate them sitting at the lunch counter and dragging the Overton window over towards Reason.

JR, -kerosene and a match

ProfWombat said...

I almost entirely agree with you, save that one can define reason, as well as emotion, in an intellectually sloppy and self-serving way. There are places I wouldn't make the case the way I did: it'd be received uncritically, to a far different purpose than intended.