Sunday, October 25, 2009

Problems with the Anti-Rational Truth of Our Heart

Unamuno believes that the driving force for human existence is an idea in some sort of immortality. Of course, as he acknowledges, this is “anti-rational.” There is no real reason for us to believe it, but we do. We live our lives as if we will continue to develop as human beings, as if we will live forever. Assuming all this is true, I wonder if we may be doing ourselves a disservice by believing in something that likely does not exist according to our sense of reason. If we have the ability to change this outlook on life, by acting purely rationally, perhaps we would be better off by doing so.

Unamuno’s description of the human purpose—to make our lives unworthy of annihilation and seek an eternal sense of happiness—seems ideal, but only if it is possible to reach this sense of happiness. I do not think it is enough, as Unamuno seems to say, to believe that it is possible. The old idiom, “ignorance is bliss,” does seem to be enough to justify the human ideal. If there is no supreme happiness or immortality, then it seems wrong that it would be the basis of our lives.

Of course the alternative is not great. It means that we must actively accept the fact that the course of our lives is pointless, that there is not any real glory in acting to make annihilation an “unjust reward.” This is certainly bleak, but at least we render our lives something based in rational truth, rather than anti-rational truth, a contradiction.

All things considered, I’m not sure if it would ever be possible to change what Unamuno calls the “anti-rational truth of our heart, but it still seems disconcerting to think of our lives as based upon it. Maybe there is not much for us to do but accept its problems as the center of our existence. Or maybe we should rethink our driving purpose if possible, however bleak that may be.


  1. I agree that it is a little disconcerting to base one's life on something that is antirational. But I think that in some ways rationality can only do so much or take us so far. In fact I think that it is impossible to build a life entirely on rationality. One would be stuck, as Unamuno states, in a bleak skepticism. I think that part of living life is holding true things that reason can not prove.

  2. It seems that humans view happiness (subjectively) because we are subconsciously aware that there is no supreme happiness. Thus, we define what makes us happy, whether rational or not, and deem it as our "purpose" for living. However, this could be seen as something that covers up the fact that we know we are going to die. Of course this is extremely bleak, and I agree with Carol that we cannot go about life fully acting upon this. Otherwise, we would see our lives as merely a series of events leading up to death. However, our irrational views and quest for happiness allows us to experience the anxiety towards death. This anxiety ultimately creates meaning, which although varies from person to person, it asserts our existence in a positive, proactive way.

  3. I agree with both Carol and Jen's view about antirational thoughts about life. Maybe recognizing that we do live on a false view of life makes us create anxiety about death and other experiences in life as Jen said. Even thinking about realizing that our lives are so bleak is intimidating; so actually accepting that our lives are based on anitrational thoughts makes existence seem obslete that it is unthinkable. Therefore, in order to enjoy living life, whether it is on the basis of anti rational thinking , people just avoid realizing how " tragic" life really is.


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