Friday, March 13, 2009

Faith & Reason (doubt)

A brief warning - 90% of the following post has nothing to do with running - rather it is related to the TV show Lost, Jim Cramer vs Jon Stewart, and Descartes. I blame Brian Godsey's blog for putting me in a philisophical frame of mind. You've been warned - so, here it goes.

I consider myself a "man of reason." I feel like most of the world's problems are caused because people are appealing to faith rather than reason. The quote on my google page today was from the writer Norman Mailer - "Any war that requires the suspension of reason as a necessity for support is a bad war." It alarms me how often people rely on emotion, faith, or pure momentum to make choices in this world. In my mind it's a major reason we find ourselves in an unpopular war and a major recession. As a society we suspended reason - or more specifically doubt - in these two areas in the last decade.

So, how is doubt related to reason? The famous "I think therefore I am" is taken from Descartes meditations. There is a line of philosophical thought that posits we cannot even be sure of our own existence because we cannot trust our senses. Our senses are our only window to the world - and yet we know they can be tricked - so, how do we know if the world or even we exist? So, Descartes says - if even i can doubt the existence of the world - "is there anything I can't doubt?" well, i guess i can't doubt that i'm doubting - and if i'm doubting then i must exist. so, i don't know about all this other stuff that i call the universe - it might not exist - but, at least i can confidently say that I exist, because I think (doubt).

The central conflict in Lost is between faith & reason - the character Locke represents faith, and Jack represents reason. The arc of the plot is a see-saw battle between the values of faith and the values of reason - this season the values of faith seem to be winning out. All the characters are ignoring any doubts they might have - all for different reasons. Jack & Locke represent the struggle that we have within ourselves. We need reason/doubt so we don't overextend ourselves - and we need faith to get out of bed in the morning. In the end - as much as I fight for more reason in this world - I understand that we need both.

Jim Cramer, of CNBC's Mad Money was on Jon Stewart last night. They didn't say one word about religion - but, it was about how Jim Cramer had so much faith in the financial system - and how he, and others like him, communicated that faith to the marketplace - and the complete lack of doubt or reason led us to overextend ourselves. Stewart's point is that journalism should be about doubt - not cheerleading. But, how do we get ourselves out of this recession? Eventually enough people will have to have some faith - hopefully along with a lot of reason - and take a chance.

So, now for the 10% about running. When I started planning for the Boston marathon back last summer - wasn't that an act of faith? Well, at least some of it was. There is no way I could know exactly what would happen over the six months of training that was focused on the marathon. I had to take at least a little leap of faith - that my body would hold up - that i would still be interested in it six months later etc. The great thing about making these leaps of faith about your own behavior is that it feels good when you can make them become real. As important as doubt is - it is rarely accompanied by those same feelings - although without reason it would be impossible to make dreams real.

It's complicated.


RM said...

I think it's pretty simple.

I doubt that I'm going to be a P ever in my life, and have faith that I will always be awesome.

I have faith that you will run 2:30 and doubt that you will fail me.

I doubt I will run 2:40 but have faith that I'm going to try and fail.

Doubt is a terrible word, especially for people who have faith. Also you used it a lot in one sentence. Doubting Thomas had to touch Jesus' wounds before he really had faith. So does that mean seeing/touching/feeling is believing?

Do you think that's air you're breathing?

There is no spoon.

The Matrix explains it all.

fbg said...

If you blame it on me, I'll pass the buck to Mike (

I'm not going to start an argument with you here, too. Mostly, I just want to make fun of you for using Lost as your main reference.

And, I want to join your crusade against the suspension of reason.

RM said...

Brian's just jealous because he missed out on Lost. Believe me, if he thinks Lost is gui, like 900% of the things in his life are even gui-er, including his Euro lifestyle. They pretty much invented gui.

fbg said...

I watched the first or second episode of Lost after I came home from helping freshman math students back in the day. I turned on the TV, and there it was. I watched two or three episodes before I decided I'd rather watch one of the other two stations I got on my rabbit ears, or nothing at all.

I don't know what "gui" means. Or, well, I do, but that's computer terminology, and probably something different.