The Role of Logical Reasoning in the Search for Knowledge

While it is clear that the mind of reason is not the appropriate instrument to realize and grasp the Truth of the Infinite, it is also clear that as human beings we basically start with this instrument and have to find out how to appropriately employ it, and in what manner we need to move beyond it at the appropriate time.

Sri Aurobindo maps out this issue as follows: “Logical reasoning is useful and indispensable in its own field in order to give the mind a certain clearness, precision and subtlety in dealing with its own ideas and word-symbols, so that our perception of the truths which we arrive at by observation and experience or which physically, psychologically or spiritually we have seen, may be as little as possible obscured by the confusions of our average human intelligence, its proneness to take appearance for fact, its haste to be misled by partial truth, its exaggerated conclusions, its intellectual and emotional partialities, its incompetent bunglings in that linking of truth to truth by which alone we can arrive at a complete knowledge.”

In fact, a difficulty that dogs our steps along almost the entire path of human development and our search for knowledge is that we have the capability to mislead ourselves as Sri Aurobindo has so clearly pointed out, in so many different ways.

It is also clear that the logical reason has been employed not so much as a “seeker of light” as a weapon to defeat opposing ideas or philosophies, creeds or religions. It has come under the control of the vital being in man that wants to control, dominate and direct; and in such a circumstance, it has been subverted from its true purpose and capabilities to become a soldier in a ‘war of ideas.’

Sri Aurobindo points out further that the logical intellect is in fact not truly a power capable of achieving knowledge, and that it “is much more efficiently a guardian against error than a discoverer of truth…” As long as we focus on distinctions, differences, and separation, rather than the comprehending and comprehensive unity, this must be the case. At some point, as we travel along this path, we need to recognize the nature of the opposition and difficulty thrown up by our logical mind, and find the way to move beyond it to the experience of the unity between the individual and the universe.

reference: Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part I, Chapter 3, The Eternal and the Individual, pp. 366-367

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