Irrationalism (Latin irrationalis unreasonable) is in a broad sense philosophical teachings that limit, belittle or deny the decisive role of reason in cognition, highlighting other kinds of human abilities-instinct, intuition, immediate contemplation, illumination, imagination, feelings, and so on.
As a rule, these teachings are idealistic and recognize the basis of the universe or one of the absolutized abilities of the human psyche (the “will” of Schopenhauer), or God standing above all the faculties of the mind and intelligible only in the process of mystical unification (M.Ekhardt); or something Unknowable (Kant, Spencer, S. Frank), which is fundamentally inaccessible to the human mind, although it lies at its base and can manifest itself in one way or another. The extreme variety of irrationalism is agnosticism. If irrationalism belittles the role of rational cognition, then agnosticism maintains the fundamental unknowability of the world.
Historically, the first form of irrationalism is skepticism. The founder of skepticism Pyrrho said that “things are equally indistinguishable, unexplained and indeterminate,” as a result of which “neither our sensations nor our opinions are neither true nor false,” and therefore “one should not believe them.” The purpose of the skeptic, according to Sextus Empiricus, is “equanimity in things that are subject to our opinion, and moderation in what we are compelled to experience.” Skepticism is most directly associated with such concepts as nihilism – the complete denial of all universally recognized – and relativism – the doctrine of the relativity, conventionality and subjectivity of human cognition.
In medieval scholasticism, irrationalism was the philosophical basis of mysticism and existed in the form of the concepts of Bernard of Clairvaux, Johann Eckhart, and others who considered it impossible to the rational knowledge of God, but possible his mystical contemplation. “The very name of Theos is not the name of God,” wrote N. Kuzansky, “God is beyond any concept, and what is impossible to think about, it remains inexpressible. Express – means by verbal or other symbolic signs to show outside the inner thought, and whose semblance can’t be conceived, and the name is unknown.” Beginning with modern times, one can speak of irrationalism in the narrow sense of the word, i.e. concepts that were created in opposition to rationalism. Depending on the main idea, they can be divided into three groups:
- Criticism of the limited intellectual abilities of man, originating in ancient skepticism (Pascal, Gaman, Jacobi, “Philosophy of Life”).
- Reaction to Hegelian rationalism and panlogism (Kierkegaard, Schelling, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche).
- Recognition of the irreducibility of the human personality to the intellect (existentialism).
B. Pascal constantly stressed the inconsistency of the ultimate “dogmatic” knowledge in the face of “two abysses – the abyss of infinity and the abyss of nothingness.” Wisdom is in ignorance in the face of an inexhaustible infinity, in recognizing that “everything in the world is partly true, partly false.” “An impenetrable mystery” hides the beginning and the end of the universe. Infinite knowledge is possessed only by God, man is doomed to the finiteness and relativity of his truths – and this must be reconciled.
Jacobi argued that any consistent rationalism inevitably leads to atheism and fatalism: the highest principle of rational thinking is the principle of principles (principium compositions), therefore it can only be comprehended by a reasonable and conditioned one. Consequently, for him there is nothing unreasonable and unconditioned; God or absolute freedom. Also, rationalism does not even allow us to substantiate the reality of the sensory world and other people-this only gives us a “sense of faith,” which necessarily leads to faith in revelation.
The main idea ofthe “philosophy of life” is the impossibility of fixing the “flow of life” in the concepts. Realizing the beginning of the world not as a substance, but as becoming, creative energy, etc., the representatives of the “philosophy of life” concluded that this principle is ineffectual in frozen abstractions that only the mind can use.
In “Philosophical Letters on Dogmatism and Criticism,” Schelling expresses the idea that the pure “I” is the sphere of the rationally incomprehensible, which is inaccessible to the objective definition. The direct experience gained in the process of intellectual contemplation is the only way of self-knowledge, because it is “an experience created by ourselves and independently of any objective causality.” Moreover, the bias of personal experience is a guarantee of subjective freedom. Similarly, S. Kierkegaard also went – his “qualitative”, “existential” dialectics deals with “unobjectivable” experiences of the individual, which are fundamentally incomprehensible with the help of objective rational analysis. F. Nietzsche went even further, abandoning the strictly scientific form of exposition and switching to the language of allegories, symbols and allegories. Philosophy is a “cheerful science”, or a love for wisdom, but at the heart of the world is “the will to power.” Schopenhauer, criticizing Hegel, contrasted his Absolute Reason with no less absolute and irrational Will.
Representatives of existentialism, developing the idea that the essence of man is not so much an intellect as a kind of personal existence (according to M. Foucault, “the being of consciousness in its freedom from the influence of the sensory world, the only event for which is the flow of meanings”), which can not be expressed, but can be described with the help of the concepts of fear, freedom, time, limb, etc., focused on the emotional side of human consciousness. As for being as the basis of all things, it is also inexpressible, because it combines the directly opposite definitions – “common” and “unique”, “understandable” and “all the less understandable”, “most forgotten” and “most memorable,” “the most expressed “and” most silent “(Heidegger M. Time and Being, M., 1993, pp. 173-174).
The main paradox of irrationalism consists in an attempt to rationally prove or affirm rational unprovability or the impossibility of true cognition. This was noticed by skeptics. In particular, Sextus Empiricus compared a skeptical proof proving the impossibility of any evidence, with fire that exists only as long as there are objects devoured by it. The skeptical proof “self-destructs” along with those objects against which it is directed. The second way to solve this paradox is to point out that the mind only sorts out the knowledge that was obtained as a result of the irrational-mystical experience. Hence the task of philosophy: “to find the most perfect formulation of truth seen in intuition,” synthesizing formulas for it that radiate not evidence and conclusions, but light. There is a third way in the form of “incomprehensible comprehension” – reason logically comes to recognize the existence of its borders, which it can not overcome. At the same time, proving that the concept of God is “infinite”, “indefinable”, “incomprehensible” and “ineffable”, he tries in every possible way to find for him an adequate concept – non-linear, absolute chajnost, supersubstantial substance, etc.
Some philosophers try to synthesize rational and irrational, mystical knowledge, transforming the latter into the basis of the first: being, “is first known to sensory experience and rational thinking in the threefold act of faith, imagination and creativity… Thus, the basis of true knowledge is mystical, or religious, a perception from which only our logical thinking gets its unconditional intelligence, and our experience is the value of an unconditional reality.”
Modern irrationalism is represented by postmodernism, which criticizes the mind for creating, by creating all new social structures and cultural forms, “standardizes” a person, depriving him of his unique identity. The origins of irrationalism lie in the infinity, inexhaustibility and maximum complexity of the basic objects of philosophical knowledge – nature, God, consciousness. Criticizing the paucity of rationalism, he contributed to the deepening of the concepts of “consciousness”, “personality”, “knowledge”. Pointing to the limits of rationalism and limiting the “excessive claims” of reason, irrationalism contributed to the development and improvement of human cognitive abilities.