From the “rational soul” to an unbridled “trust in reason”

  • D.F.M. Strauss University of the Free State
Keywords: (Trust in) Reason, (Ir)rationaslism, conceptual knowledge, concept-transcending knowledge, continuity postulate, natural science ideal


A long-standing legacy holds that reason is the hall-mark of the human soul or mind. Whereas Greek thinking struggled with the dualism of form and matter, medieval philosophy and theology wrestled with an attempt to synthesize the Greek views (of Plato and Aristotle), with the biblical view, but got entangled in serious difficulties.The rise of the modern era added an explicit trust in reason to this tradition (non deceiving clear and distinct thinking in Descartes), combined with the motive oflogical creation. According to Kant understanding creates its laws (a priori) not out of nature, but prescribes them to nature. The transition to historicism and the linguistic turn relativised Kant’s claim to universal validity – each person or society constructs its own life-world. Briefly highlighting the intrinsic inconsistency of positivism is followed by lifting out the acknowledgment that the trust in reason is not rational itself (Popper) and that one has to believe in something before one can justify something else (Stegmüller). In conclusion a brief example is given of such an assumption with reference to the a priori continuity postulate of (neo-) Darwinism –nature does not make jumps (natura non facit saltum).