Issues in Philosophy The Limits of Reason

The Limits of Reason

We think reason helps lead us to knowledge. But from our political views to finding our way home what we know and believe is often felt rather than thought. Is knowledge stranger than reason? Does a more meaningful experience await us outside of rationality, or is reason the only path that leads us out of the dark?
The Panel

In the latest video from the Institute of Art and Ideas, Director of the Centre for Logic and Language at the Institute of Philosophy, Corine Besson, joins Buddhist philosopher Stephen Batchelor and theologian Alison Milbank to ask if there is truth beyond reason.

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This video was produced by The Institute of Art and Ideas and is republished here with permission. It was filmed at HowTheLightGetsIn 2016 alongside 200 other debates and talks, all available for free at IAI TV. Tickets for HowTheLightGetsIn 2018 are now on sale for the launch lineup and more information, click here.


  1. The discussion seemed only to have highlighted ambiguities in the meaning of words such as ‘feelings’, ‘thoughts’, ‘knowledge’, ‘reason’, ‘rationality’ and so on. Perhaps this is because there appear to be two completely different ways we humans process our experiences and sometimes we flit from one to the other almost simultaneously, but never at the same time. It is suggested, what is sometimes referred to as ‘the right hemisphere’ of the human brain experiences an a posteriori world directly through its senses alone in a subjectively indeterminate way. Its reality is entirely non-judgemental, so pre-empts meaning in any ‘conceptually-conscious sense of the word, whereas, what is sometimes referred to as ‘the ‘left- hemisphere’ can only experience an a priori world indirectly by trying to interpret these experiences in an objectively determinate way, and these two ways of processing data are completely incompatible. (A rainbow is either beautiful, awesome, inspiring &c., or it is a refraction of the sun’s rays through rain &c.) Our pre-linguistic ancestors appear to have lived and survived fairly successfully in a sensually-conscious way for many thousands of generations, before their egos began to recognise this evolutionary process going on instinctively within us all the time, and so developed its own conceptually-conscious ability to create its own independent evolution.
    Whether ‘the rise of the mutant ego’ will lead us ‘out of the dark’ depends on whether we ‘feel’ or ‘think’ it will.


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