Contemporary reason leads us to believe and think in terms of ends, of results, of conclusions. In Greek antiquity, the seat of the soul, the Stoic hegemonikon, was reason. It served as the method of worldly and, more importantly, personal discovery. Contrary to modern notions, reason was the primary tool for inquiry. Reason, derived from the Latin word ratio (rat- = thought), generated questions necessary for deriving facts that could be used to uncover and challenge assumptions.

In contemporary culture it is prized to be decisive, to be certain. It is seen as noble to list your interests and categorize your passions. We revolve around answers, around black and white, right and wrong. Having a favorite team, perfume, cars, bands, or political standing. Our definitions and labels leave us feeling proud, worthwhile, self-assured. But this polarization strips the variation from life.  We look for specific answers outside ourselves, we defer to associations that resonate with the values of the status quo or maintain prestige, but we fail to ask ourselves what we think and hesitate to explore our own experience and arrive at answers congruent with our personal reasons or convictions.

Love is acknowledging similarities. Hate is acknowledging differences. Both are self-fulfilling, path dependent, and habit forming. Whether you think you’re right or wrong, you’re right. All we are is thoughts. All we are is habits. We forget that there are no absolute facts, no eternal answers, only proper relations. Reason is not answers, not facts, not lists. Like the Latin translation, reason is ratio, relations, calculations among entities. Everything is a relationship. As the subject of our world, we dictate the terms of that relationship. If we want sound conclusions and a harmonious life, we must establish the proper relations not only among external things, we must form a proper relationship with the world, subject and object. This requires honesty: the first task of philosophy is losing self-conceit. How can we learn what we already know?


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