21A018 Reason and Choice by Jim Davies, 5/18/2021  


Humans reason. It's what most vividly differentiates our species from other intelligent animals.

One of the smartest of those others is the squirrel. Hoist a bird feeder anywhere in New England in Spring, to attract some feathered friends, and squirrels will find a way to steal the seeds. They are incredibly clever and adaptive; a few years ago I tried several different ways to make one inaccessible to any critter without wings, but gave up with the score Squirrel 4, Jim 0.

Maybe humans have designed a squirrel-proof bird feeder, maybe not; but we can be sure of this: no squirrel has ever designed a bird-proof man feeder. In other ways too, squirrels are not too smart; unlike crows, they have failed to develop any traffic sense. They can see vehicles approaching but as often as not run towards the car instead of away from it. So their reasoning ability is limited.

Ours is limited too, and some of us are better at it than others, but the dumbest human is still many times smarter than the smartest rodent. Squirrels have evolved to leap between branches, even with primitive wings; but we can design immensely complex machines that leap between continents.

Bees have an unrivalled ability to collect honey and store it in a regimented way; but not one of them can compose, like Rimsky-Korsakov, The Flight of the Bumble Bee.

The human mind can be applied to an unlimited range of problems; to ponder the mysteries of how things work, how the galaxies, stars and planets function, how numbers are related, and so on; but also to create machines and systems and music and art and literature to make life more enjoyable - and longer. Faced with dilemmas, we can reason our way towards an optimal decision.

We don't always get it right, but the process is there, and good results flow when our minds make use of it. Unless swept along by unreasoning tradition, religion or peer pressure, we make rational choices: college or not? - begin with what talents we have, how we'd like to use them. Then if so, which college? - again, we reason by asking which is a best fit for our strengths and ambitions. Choice of a spouse is not all done with cold reason, far from it; but if reason is neglected, trouble will follow. Choice of an occupation, of a business proposal, of a place to live and work, of a home, a car, a lifestyle... all of them are or can be (and should be) made with a strong dose of reason.

Choosing is not just for important matters like those; we make hundreds of them every day, using reason each time. The two go together; choices without reasoning through the pros and cons are mere hazard, coin-flipping. And to reason about a course of action without making an associated choice is futile. The two go together. Our ability to reason means we are animals who choose.

That applies to each individually. A collection of us does not have a communal brain - each one of us has a separate brain, each with a separate reasoning ability, and so each makes separate choices.

So human nature itself equips each of us with an ability to reason, and hence to make choices. Since government's whole purpose is to make choices for us and to impose them upon us by force, there is an absolute incompatibility between government and naturally-functioning human beings. It sets out expressly to deny each of us the attribute - reason - which most expressly makes us human; it robs us of our humanity, makes us less than human. This is the inevitable result of allowing government to continue to exist, and that process of de-humanization has been accelerating for most of my lifetime and never faster than in this present Century. The situation is dire; it will not be long, at this rate, before the dreadful visions of Orwell and Huxley and Bradley take effect in practice.

It has poisoned our species for ten thousand years. It has to go.


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