Let me tell you what I wanted to write down: love transcends logic. There, I wrote it. Ever since I started reading “The Brothers Karamazov” I’ve had that idea stuck in my head. Just like flashes of unnecessary conscious awareness (when you suddenly become aware of the manner of your gait for no reason whatsoever, for example), it would swing into my thought process unexpectedly, at random intervals of time, really inconsistently if I might add. Sometimes I would go weeks without thinking about it, and other times, for days on end, I would think of nothing but that: love transcends logic. Whenever I did think about it my other thoughts (involuntary thoughts, like you thinking about how cold it is when you’re hit with a flooding wind; or voluntary thoughts, like trying to study for a test the next day) would act as secondary units, springing up in my mind only as though they were supposed to be there for me to function like a human; all the while that love transcends logic idea would be the train tracks, dead center, right where I was mentally heading, pushing everything else aside. If you were to tell me this, say, two years ago, or something like a year or two ago, I think I’d call it a logical absurdity. No, I wouldn’t denounce love because that’s a valid human emotion, and one that’s intrinsically necessary; but by what metaphysical standards (I feel stupid and self-conscious just saying ‘metaphysical’) would you compare love and logic? I’m throwing up the term ‘transcend’ very loosely, not as a means to transfer the conclusion of my idea on paper, but just to throw it up and see if anyone would like to catch it. Part of me thinks it’s absurd, but how would you come to understand a mystery without unraveling it? Does love transcend logic? I don’t know. I’ve thought about it for a long, long time, and I’m about as close to finding the answer as we are from witnessing our sun turn into a red giant.
We ought to start at the axioms—by explaining what are axioms. That’s very important. Going off of a general definition, axioms are the self-evident principles of reality, that is, statements that are true by their own nature, statements which cannot be proven true by using logic, yet they still make sense; and if a principle does rely on another truth to verify its own validity, then that first truth is your axiom. And if that relies on another, the chain moves back. If I say A=B, therefore B=A, that’s logically sound. I, however, certainly and absolutely can’t demand proof that A does indeed equal to B. In this simple example the A=B part is something that I just have to accept as true, because only then can the rest of it (“therefore B=A”) play out. There must be something true underlying all that logic which is not reliant on anything else, you must have faith in your logical faculties, have faith that they’ll work; and if you attempt to reason why they can be trusted, you’ve just gone in a circle. Here’s a rule of thumb: logic is not self-reinforced. With the famous “I think, therefore I am” phrase, “I think” is the underlying axiom.
It’s precisely because of this that I can’t accept the wild notion of logic and reason being the only things a person needs to function in the world—either morally or pragmatically, or both—or else you would sooner or later lose your mind. We all blindly believe in things, whether we notice it or not, and that’s unbelievably important. Compared to our existence, our condition of being when put up against the backdrop of the cosmos, the universe is practically infinite. The ratio of things we know compared to the things we don’t know is incomprehensibly small. We can live a thousand years and still know less than 0.01% of all possible knowledge. That’s why humility, from what I’ve read, is the acknowledgment of your own ignorance. I said that we blindly believe things, still and all of our religiosity, or lack thereof, because that acts as a sort of—how do I put it?—psychological mechanism. Faith is a psychological mechanism. It goes without saying that the sum total of the worst atrocities ever perpetrated by humans is predicated on the refusal to commit the proper and appropriate sacrifices. Let me give an example, to the best of my abilities. The reason totalitarian states are so reprehensible and destructive (as history has illustrated countless times) is because, by the very definition of totalitarianism, it assumes that its knowledge is absolute, that there is nothing beyond its understanding. From the perspective of its citizens, the government is omniscient. But if you’re omniscient then there’s no path for improvement. This is why the Soviet Union resulted in the deaths of tens of millions of people: its inability to correct itself; after all, First-World country governments looks for errors in themselves and adapt accordingly on a daily basis, which is partly why they’re better off. But forget about governments, at least for a minute. When you have a meaningful conversation with someone, and you learn something of incredible value, something that replaces a previous worldview, you undergo a sacrifice. Think of it like the archetype of the Phoenix bird, where it dies and is reborn. When you have a meaningful conversation with someone you die and are reborn all the time. You discover your intellectual errors, the false presuppositions that make up your arguments, you let them die, and a new one emerges. Then a new part dies, and another one takes its place. During this process you think, “Eh, that’s a little painful to hear, but I’ll accept it,” or, “Jeez, I was really attached to that idea, but I’ll let it die.” It’s like a cycle, sort of. It’s the mythology of redemption, as Jordan B. Peterson once put it. You just have to believe things or your defense against the infinite are stripped, your beliefs fill in the gaps, the 99.99% gaps in ignorance. It’s also why rules of thumb exist—we would devolve into absolute insanity if we had to consider every single variable of every inconvenient trifle all the time. In “The Brothers Karamazov” this reliance on logic and reason is the unfortunate downfall of one of its main characters, Ivan Fyodorovich Karamazov. Ivan is an unbelievably sharp man, well educated, he can argue circles around anyone on any topic. But by the end of the novel Ivan goes insane, he develops a fever, hallucinates the Devil even. He tries to reason the Devil away, but that just makes it worst. After that he doesn’t know whom to turn to, he’s left immobile in a state of helplessness. It also serves as a masterfully done character study, but I’ll leave it at that.
I have put sufficient emphasis on the second part of the title, the rules of logic, but now let’s briefly talk about love. Friedrich Nietzsche once declared that any act done out of love is beyond good and evil. He meant that love (an intense affection for a particular thing) is the primary motivator for the most radical and brazen actions ever perpetrated. His view of love manifests inside us, as it were. Regardless if an external source paints you as good or bad, for you it’s all done out of love. To commit to a genuine act of love means to be readily willing to push the boundaries of nominally accepted values, like a moral transgression or something to that degree. If our highest values are based on love, then it is superior to logic; if they are based on logic, then it cannot hold up to the march of time, as eventually moral transgressions will arise, and it all falls apart.
But I think my main idea here, the one presented to the reader in the very beginning, is at that stage where I’ve exhausted either my capacity or my willingness to explain it without I myself feeling horribly dissatisfied, and by extension, I can in no good faith trust the adequacy of my explanations. What I’ve written here is dense and convoluted, it’s not meant to be said off the cuff, nor accepted on a whim of passion. “Why should I, the reader, study these arguments in front of me if they’ll only lead to the perplexity of the most superfluous degree?” You’re right, it leads to perplexity—and it leads to a constant confrontation with the abyss of the unknown, and constant torment of your own beliefs to doubt, and constant frustration with the unbearable displeasure of cognitive dissonance. And why should I, the writer, demand clarity from the reader? What right do I have? I don’t.
If nothing else, I’ll leave you with a favorite quote of mine, not to be pretentious or anything, just to make sure you take at least something from this opinion piece:
“The truth is something that burns, it burns off deadwood, and people don’t like having their deadwood burnt off, often because they’re 95% deadwood.”
—Jordan B. Peterson
Thank you for reading.
Written By: Leonardo Cunha