Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Neo-Rationalism as a Philosophy

The Principles of Neo-Rationalism

  1. True understanding of the universe is the only worthy pursuit
  2. True understanding of the universe can be achieved only by a rational mind using science.
  3. Science achieves understanding only through empirical research, logic and experimentation.
  4. Man is an irrational animal in his natural state; the irrational, like an animal, cannot be held responsible for his actions.
  5. Rational thought can only be achieved by hard work, education, and dedication to the geniuses of the past.
  6. Rational thought frees man from irrational instinct; freeing all men from irrational thought will bring about a utopia.
  7. The supernatural and mental does not exist; only the physical exists.

The Beliefs of Neo-Rationalism

The Scientist by Skyosan
The rational mind is unfettered by preconception. It views all things skeptically, but stands ready to be proven wrong.”
- Kun-Lun Kaku, the Philosophy of Science

At its very core, Neo-Rationalism is an empirical science. It inherits Rationalism’s demand that all things be proven. One should see it with ones own eyes and have it proven to them before they will believe it. It believes in a materialistic universe, one without “supernatural” influences, one that is rational, deterministic and predictable.

Neo-Rationalism has grown beyond pure empiricism, though. It makes statements about things which cannot be proven, such as theology, metaphysics and ethics. It does this through logical inference and authority. For the first, Neo-Rationalism has a complex and well-studied system of logic that can be represented with complex symbolic equations. When logic is insufficient, Neo-Rationalism implicitly believes in the genius of its founders and in those “sufficiently well-educated” in Neo-Rationalism to infer “deeper truths” in the opinions and statements of those founders, applying Neo-Rationalism’s logical rigor to statements like “God does not play with dice” to create new doctrines. If these new doctrines seem strange or illogical, a good Neo-Rationalist checks the sources, and only if they can be traced to original experts and the logic is being handled by a soundly educated Neo-Rationalist does he accept them.

Neo-Rationalism and the Hard Questions

Neo-Rationalism and Good vs Evil

Rationalism brings light to the darkness of an irrational universe.”
-Avienna Kaku, the Rationalist Canon

Neo-Rationalism dismisses “good vs evil” as a myth developed by animalistic minds who wanted to enslave others. It believes, instead, in rationalism vs irrationalism.

According to Neo-Rationalism, all creatures are irrational. They are great biological machines who react to their environment and their own internal chemical and electrical impulses. Their instincts have been honed by billions of years of evolution to survive, not to understand the world. They react out of emotion, fear, anger, hunger, and they assign superstitious beliefs to things. This unthinking reaction is the source of all ill in the world. The beast rages and, in so doing, ruins his own world. In its hunger, it consumes until the environment his barren. In its fury, it destroys potential allies. In its fear, it flees from that which it does not understand, rather than seeking to understand.

The rational mind, by contrast, is well-ordered and educated. It has foresight and can see what consequences its actions will have on the world around it. It replaces fear with understanding, hunger with careful planning and rage with dialog. Neo-Rationalism argues that the well-ordered mind can see a solution out of any problem, even the largest and most complex of problems, which means that the perfectly rational mind can create any “good” outcome that one might seek.

Neo-Rationalists advocate a carefully regimented set of ethical rules that individuals should follow. While Neo-Rationalism largely concerns itself with the outcome of actions, rather than the character of the individual that engages in them, Neo-Rationalism advises against all but the most rational from doing whatever they think is best. In most cases, the partially educated mind is not yet ready for completely unfettered ethics. Instead, it’s better to follow the ethical guidelines of Neo-Rationalism.

Those ethical guidelines ultimately seek to spread rationalism to as many people as possible. In creating a perfectly rational and ordered world, Neo-Rationalism hopes to eliminate all ills, all disagreement and all conflict.

Neo-Rationalism, the State and War

What is man, but a biological machine?”
-Kun-Lun Kaku, the Mirrors of Consciousness

Neo-Rationalism believes that the wide-scale spread of Neo-Rationalism is critical to the well-being of all people. It believes, further, that not all people can be, or will be, brought to Neo-Rationalism. Some animal minds are simply too primitive to understand Neo-Rationalism. As such, it hopes to create large organizations, laws and states, that mitigate the harm caused by the irrational few who will never advance beyond their instincts.

In this regard, it attempts to incorporate Neo-Rational ideals into the state. It argues against free-will and thus moral responsibility: to the Neo-Rationalist, the self is just an illusion that a soulless biological machine tells itself to prevent existential dread. It is ruled by its nature and by the events around it. A criminal is not truly responsible for his misdeeds; instead, he’s reacting to years of mistreatment, neglect, difficult circumstances and, likely, a primitive and irrational mind. “Punishment” is only vendetta in the guise of justice. Better, instead, to re-educate the criminal mind so that it becomes rational and sees the error of its way or, if this proves to be impossible, exile it to some place where it cannot harm good and rational society.

Neo-Rationalists disdain war and violence as inelegant, brute solutions.  War burns books, rips apart societies and drives men into irrational, survival instincts.  A truly rational society would never need war.  That said, irrational minds often lash out at rational societies out of fear.  A rational state is justified in acting in self-defense, even preemptively if it can accurately predict an inevitable attack.  The goal of a rational war should swift victory, the pacification and re-education of the enemy, and minimized casualties.  For the neo-rationalist, the best war is the war that’s won before it’s fought.

Neo-Rationalism on Time and Destiny

Logic is the machinery of a well-ordered mind.”
-Tillika, Hyperphysica

Neo-Rationalists believe in a deterministic universe. Every cause has an effect, going back to the big bang, which set everything in motion. Nothing can deviate from its course, and free will is just a story the brain tells itself. If one had perfect access to all data, one could perfectly predict the future. Alas, no human mind has that data, because some systems have so many variables that perfect prediction is impossible. Even the best mind cannot perfectly predict the weather and will practically never be able to do so. The same applies to the “decisions” of the mind, the workings of society, etc. That doesn’t mean, of course, that one can’t have good models that generally predict these things (hence the ethical rules devised by Neo-Rationalism).

Neo-Rationalism on Psionic Powers and Communion

Psychic phenomenon is nothing less than the disease of the irrational upon an ordered and rational universe. The truly rational could never abide its existence.”
-Dawkin Nigh, Godslayer

Neo-Rationalism denies the existence of the mind as anything but emergent expression of the physical brain. Neo-Rationalism has a strictly materialist view of the universe, and so things like psionic powers and communion do not exist. Those who claim to have those powers are, in the view of Neo-Rationalists, charlatans using some sort of trick, advanced knowledge, or sheer luck, to gain some advantage.

When pressed with physical proof of psionic powers, most Neo-Rationalists will go in one of two directions. The more patient will argue that this is merely an interaction between the energies of the individual and the space around him via a means of some as-of-yet undiscovered process (likely something involving quantum mumbo-jumbo). Those less patient will argue that those powers should not exist and are an unnatural (“irrational”) violation of the rightful laws of the universe. They seek to purge the universe of psionic abilities.

The Neo-Rationalist view on the mind makes them especially open to the idea of robotic independence, as they see robots as fundamentally no different than people (“A biological machine is no different from a cybernetic machine”).

Neo-Rationalism on Death and the Afterlife

We are stardust. The ashes of exploded stars fill our every cell, the very core of our being. The stars are our heritage and our legacy. We must go to them.”
-Tai-Sun Saga, Ad Astra: the Hope of Mankind

Neo-Rationalism holds that death is a complicated breakdown of the biological machine, after which consciousness, as much as it can be said to have ever existed, ceases.  Death is the end. No afterlife follows.  The only form of legacy a Neo-Rationalist can hope for is that his ideas and knowledge will carry on into the future.  The Neo-Rationalis seeks immortality in the form of published treatises.

Neo-Rationalism and other Philosophies

Neo-Rationalism argues that it is open to all “reasonable” philosophies, but in practice it tends to treat all philosophies other than itself or minor variations as deeply misguided at best and outright dangerous at worst. Neo-Rationalism believes that irrational minds lie at the heart of all other philosophies, and ascribes to them sinister motivations (for example, deceiving the gullible masses for personal gain). They like to depict other philosophies as cults with hypocritical leadership.

To the Neo-Rationalist, whether or not one follows Neo-Rationalism is the litmus test of the rational mind. Those who do not, or who argue against it are inherently irrational. As such, dialogue between other philosophies and Neo-Rationalism tends to get off to a rocky start unless adherents to the other philosophy begin by acknowledging the supremacy of Neo-Rationalism.

Neo-Rationalism doesn’t even co-exist well with other philosophies. Rather than “live and let live,” Neo-Rationalism tends to see the “irrational superstition” spread by other philosophies as a threat. They even advocate for pre-emptive action against “irrational” individuals and may see “irrationalism” as a source of crime, and thus may advocate for purging the community of other philosophies. They tend to avoid being brutal about it. They won’t simply gun down those who believe in a different philosophy. Instead, they’ll try to outmaneuver them, defeat them with propaganda and trade sanctions, and then attempt to re-educate or “isolate” them so they can’t spread their “superstition.”

Is Neo-Rationalism Correct?

The default stance is that Neo-Rationalism is not correct and cannot be correct.  It explicitly throws away the very concepts that it believes could make itself correct (it irrationally pursues rationality, a paradox).  It exists in the setting as something to fight against and correct, something even some neo-rationalists can see!

That said, Neo-Rationalism could be right, and it could be right in two possible ways.  The first is that it’s on the right track.  It’s wrong about psionics and it’s wrong to pursue science in the manner that it does, but it’s ultimately right about the dangers of superstition and the irrational. A galaxy run on rational principles would be better, in this scenario. The second, and more extreme scenario, is that Neo-Rationalism is absolutely correct.  If the mystical philosophies can be right, why can’t Neo-Rationalism’s more metaphysical claims be correct?  Psionics and Communion may exist, but they’re not what mystical philosophies say they are.  As proof of this, consider how people can engineer psions and create psychotronic devices.  This often goes wrong, to be sure, but so did chemistry in its early days and that doesn’t mean chemistry didn’t work, just that it needs to be refined.

A Neo-Rational universe is a classic sci-fi universe that has gone off-track, and fallen into a dark age.  Neo-Rationalism is the last spark of the scientific and technological mindset necessary to pull the galaxy, kicking and screaming, into a new golden age.  If this is true, then the Empire, the Cybernetic Union or the Shinjurai are the true heroes of the setting, and everyone else is holding back their progress.  Or, if Neo-Rationalism is wrong, but Rationalism is correct, then Folk-Rationalism is the key to restoring the galaxy to the right path.  They need to break down the elitist dogmas of the Neo-Rationalists, and then spread their purer philosophy until the rest of the galaxy finally wakes up from its superstitious stupor.

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