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'Come On, let's do the 'Reasonable' thing you Know it makes Sense.'

To be 'Reasonable' is to uses a valued discourse designed to naturalise arguments that have the ulterior motive of furthering a particular set of values. You don;t think so?  Well, think of a group huddled round a table. It might be any think-tank; high powered Docklands consultancy; or it may be even a ‘Cabinet’ table. Invariably there is someone leading the discussion, let’s call him ‘Dave’.

“Look we have to come to a conclusion on this issue and what I suggest is we explore the various options... Ok?” says Dave. “... if we take this step by step I think we can come to a resolution.”  

As the steps are taken to reach the momentous decision the protests (welcomed at this kind of meeting) are voiced, “Aren’t we just going round in circles with this?”                                                                                                                                                                      “This is going nowhere. Why are we going in this direction?”                                                                   “Because it is the reasonable way,” says a patience tested Dave’. Now if we can just for one moment stop going off in tangents...although I do welcome all of your thoughts but I feel we are straying off topic (topos being Greek for place). I think we would all agree that this is the most reasonable way and we must listen to reason” 

So why must we listen to reason, Dave’?

·         Is it because of Aristotle’s (384 BC – 322 BC) assertion that we are rational and thereby reasonable animals?

·         Is it because of  René Descartes (1596 –1650) claim that we are dualistic persons with a mind separate from and independent of the body, and we all share the same disembodied transcendent reason, capable of knowing his mind or her mind simply by self reflection?

·         Is it because of Immanuel Kant’s (1724 –1804) categorical imperative - his basis for a universal concept of morality, "Act only according to that maxim whereby you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law.” i.e. we all know what is the right thing to do.

·         Is it simply the Enlightenment (circa 17th-18thcentury) that era in Western philosophy and intellectual, scientific, and cultural life, in which reason was advocated as the primary source for legitimacy and authority?

Such questions encapsulate a theoretical edifice which many still subscribe to: but there is another theory about reason. Baldly it goes like this: Reason is not transcendental, or a priori; nor is it disembodied; .nor neither is it culture free; no free of interpersonal relations. Nor is it some stand alone quasi divine source we can always unfailingly refer to.  For things have moved on and now there is another theoretical edifice being erected about our reasoning and you don’t have to be a sensory-motor fascist to accept most of the neuroscientific findings.

The brain is made of three main parts: the forebrain, midbrain, and hindbrain. The forebrain consists of the cerebrum, thalamus, and hypothalamus (part of the limbic system). The midbrain consists of the tectum and tegmentum. The hindbrain is made of the cerebellum, pons and medulla. Often the midbrain, pons, and medulla are referred to together as the brainstem.

The cerebrum or cortex is the largest part of the human brain, associated with higher brain function such as thought and action. The cerebral cortex is divided into four sections, called "lobes": the frontal lobe, parietal lobe, occipital lobe, and temporal lobe. Here is a visual representation of the cortex: From the diagram we can see that the 'Frontal Lobe' is the 'reasoning' area of the brain

Image of Cerebral Cortex
What do each of these lobes do?

  • Frontal Lobe- associated with reasoning, planning, parts of speech, movement, emotions, and problem solving
  • Parietal Lobe- associated with movement, orientation, recognition, perception of stimuli
  • Occipital Lobe- associated with visual processing
  • Temporal Lobe- associated with perception and recognition of auditory stimuli, memory, and speech

But where is the evidence for these doubts about the power of 'reasoning'? Well, we rmight refer to Antonio Damasio (1999) who carried out a detailed study of patients with the ailment of anosognosia - a disorder which leaves rationality and linguistic abilities intact, but leaves the sufferer without the ability to experience emotion.  For such people functioning on reason alone will cause them to debate the whys and wherefores of say the route to the hospital all morning. Yet the person with emotions intact will get emotionally, ‘hot under the collar’ after a while and feel compelled to get a move on.
By way of further example, if we see the approach of an aggressive looking person, Damasio has shown this image provokes sympathetic nervous system activation which affects the internal environment of the body by its action on smooth muscles and hormonal levels. This change in body state, corresponding to the emotion that we call fear, leads to patterns of nerve cell activation in the brain
In yet another example when such patients are presented with a slide show that includes graphic pictures of sex or violence, they can identify them and describe their horrible details normally, but they show none of the emotional responses that are irresistible in normal people.  Even on the fundamental level of crossing the road if we were to find ourselves on a pedestrian crossing and we saw a car approaching us at speed, it would be the hairs standing up on the back of our necks which is the first trigger for us to skid addle out of the way. For it appears there isn’t time to reason.
Further studies show ....
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