Not all there

Chesterton, somewhere, memorably notes that the madman is not without reason. Verily, in the mental department, he has lost everything except his reason. I remember this every time I find myself arguing with an atheist: that it is best not to. The mere idea of “pure reason” enabled a certain Immanuel Kant to anticipate post-modernity, set the stage for some bizarre descendants, and reset all our metaphysical dials to an atheist default position. Not that he was intending this. He was only taking a step beyond Hume. “Fully autonomous reason,” shall we call it, is a powerfully destructive force. Perfection of the intellect is no more possible, down here on earth, than a life entirely without sin. The belief that we can elevate ourselves by the synaptic bootstraps of our wee tiny brains, has much for which to answer.

In Parkdale for instance: a district of this city renowned for its accumulation of “outpatients,” on and off their “meds.” They also illustrate Chesterton’s aphorism. Often they are reasoning, aloud; and seldom on my walks do I detect any logical errors. From the facts or premisses that they have supposed, their (often angry) mutterings to themselves flow quite naturally. I have even overheard some impressive hair-splitting; and have often thought that, with a little anger management, they could be candidates for tenure — at Ryerson, if not the U of T.

And yairs, vice versa, if you know what I mean.

“Pure reason,” as it were, uncritiqued. Yet it is not the reasoning that disturbs me, rather the premisses, and the judgements on fact, that strike me as intellectually wanton. We have what might be called “worldview issues.”

If, for instance, I believe myself a teapot, it does correctly follow that I may have a handle and a spout. The empirical observation, that I am lacking in these appendages, may be logically confuted. Maybe they broke off. Or from a Darwinian perspective, maybe they “evolved” into what I have now. Ditto with any missing lid and, of course, tea leaves and hot water prove nothing. Maybe the universe, too, “just happened.”

Perhaps teapots have gone out of style. There is a Canadian gentleman named Paul, now “Stefonknee” Wolsch, father of seven, who announced at age forty-six that he was “trans.” His wife, who risks labelling as a bigot, told him to stop that or leave. He, now dressed she, lost his/her job as a mechanic, too. But after a rough patch, Stefonknee had a further revelation, becoming an eight-year-old girl, trapped in the body of a man now past fifty. He, become she, was adopted by what I take to be a very liberal family, and now spends his, or rather her days playing with the grandchildren. I should add that the youngest, age seven, decided that her new sibling should be the youngest instead of her, and that Stefonknee now kindly prefers to be six.

This has become a controversy in the transgender community, and an exhibit in the “politics of identity.” Over at First Things (here), Carl Trueman has written facetiously but astutely on the topic, proposing the term “heliocentrarchic heterotemporalism” to describe the latest form of bigotry, directed at the purported essence of Mister, Miss, Mistress, Mrs, or Ms Wolsch. (An aspiring heliocentrarchic heterotemporalist myself, I will just call it, “him.”)

We cannot confute him by logic. Gentle reader cannot disprove that I am a teapot, either. (And at the moment, a Brown Betty teapot.) For from a strictly reasoned, i.e. insane point of view, it may be argued that one premiss is as good as another. Therefore A equals A, case closed. (Please do not vex me with your tautologiphobia.)

Faith and reason are intertwined. If there is God, His creation may contain untransmutable particularities, and other things we may not alone define. But if there is only human reason, all bets are off.