The Need For Reason

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Paper 1                                                                         Page 1 The Need For Reason In the Encyclopédie, the anonymous article "Philosophe" attempts to describe the attributes required to be a reasoning, right thinking man. Reason is a guiding beacon compared to the guidance of divine light - "even at night"¦there is a torch in front of him", which has connotations of both the Bible's shadow of the valley of death and Dante's dark wood of error.

For the philosophe, all positive qualities flow from reason. Reason and right thinking lead to integrity, "the more reason you find in a man the more integrity you find". Integrity is as important to the philosophe as mental enlightenment; without integrity he cannot honor civil society which is to him "in a sense a divinity on earth." From integrity comes honor, honor for a society to which he will contribute by giving pleasure and making himself useful, and by the "sincere desire not to be a useless or tiresome member of it".

By honoring society, the philosophe's reason leads him to humanity. The article quotes the Roman playwright Terence translated by the editors as ""¦nothing which is human is foreign to me", which is perhaps another secular way to say "˜there but for the grace of God go I". Empathy and sympathy flow from humanity "“ the philosophe can place himself in another man's position.

From reason and right thinking also flow understanding. The ability to understand that there needs to be give and take with society because it is a cooperative relationship. There is no need to accept without question what is presented as truth when one can examine and understand the facts for oneself. With understanding the philosophe can actively avoid those objects and situations that create unreasonable feelings and actions, anticipating and accepting causes for actions that fit in with his view of his world.

From reason comes success. The philosophe is not materialistic but wants to enjoy his life which necessitates that he do his best for society as a whole and uphold his side of the social contract. His rational thinking and emphasis on scientific methods should provide him with success in any venture. The Encyclopédie itself is a good example of reason's commercial success. From an initial subscription of 1000 copies the order quadrupled by the fourth volume. The philosophe could well claim that people recognized the reason and right thinking behind the endeavor.

From reason comes love. Not romantic love but love for society and love for his fellow man because reason tells the philosophe that it is in his best interests to act well in society so that he works hard to "acquire sociable qualities".

Reason will bring a set of principles that will make wrong doing an anathema, "Crime would be too much against his nature.", because a right thinking man is aware he is a member of society and it is in his interests to better the fortunes of his neighbors.

By setting time aside to practice observation and reflection, while also taking time to enjoy the company of others and the benefits of nature, the philosophe strives to achieve an important balance.

They were opposed to purely abstract thinking as too esoteric and antisocial an exercise. They felt that both those who thought too much and those who thought too little were "ferocious" to their subordinates and without humanity. Those philosophers Jane Goldstone                                                 HUMS3400/Page 3 who sought to arrive at a conclusion by looking inward were "fundamentally unenlightened" because only through an "infinite number of observations" (of the external world) could a satisfactory set of principles be derived. They also opposed the blind acceptance of doctrines as truth without examination of the facts that were available. This is not to say all philosophes were atheist, rather they could be classified as agnostic, especially in their attitude to the Roman Catholic Church.

They condemned judgmental attitudes that required every issue to have one right answer, or truth. The philosophe opposed those values of fanaticism and superstition as productive of passion and anger, which sweep men along without consideration before action. There should be no passion so great that a man cannot reflect upon it with reason to decide a course of action.

In closing with an appeal for a combination of "a spirit of reflection and precision" with "social manners and qualities", and the grafting of a sovereign to a philosopher in order to get a perfect sovereign, the author is clearly implying that not all monarchs currently displayed these attributes, while being sufficiently vague to avoid censorship.

Bibliography Anonymous "˜Philosophe' in Eliot, Simon & Whitlock, Keith, eds. (1992) The Enlightenment, Texts 1, The Open University, Milton Keynes.