[This is a continuation of Section Two, Reason and the First Person. An index with links to all parts of the work as they are posted can be found [url=https://forum.evangelicaluniversalist.com/t/sword-to-the-heart-reason-and-the-first-person/1081/1]here.]
[This series constitutes Chapter 15, “A Necessary Characteristic of Reasoning”.]
In the previous chapter, I argued that the proposal “You and I can reason” is the Golden Presumption: the implicit or explicit presumption that must stand behind any argument advanced by any person on any topic. (Remember, an argument that this must be the Golden Presumption is not an argument that we can in fact think; that would be vicious circularity.) I specifically pointed out that it is entirely possible to search for and discover the causal prerequisites for our reason; but that none of these characteristics (our own existence, the existence of a stable field of reality, the existence of God, and/or whatever) would function as the Golden Presumption because they have no specific relation to ‘an argument’ as ‘an argument’.
For instance, I may exist but it doesn’t necessarily follow that I am in fact capable of reasoning. On the other hand, if I am capable of reasoning, then formally I should be able to deduce a characteristic of causal priority: I cannot be an illusion. If I did not exist, then ‘I’ could not be reasoning–either no reasoning at all would be taking place, or something else not ‘myself’ would be reasoning. Thus, if ‘I’ can reason, ‘I’ must exist. “I think, therefore I am.”
Furthermore, I argued that any attempt to justify a ‘better’ or ‘more irreducible’ candidate for the Golden Presumption could only get off the ground by presuming first (even if tacitly) that you and I can think: which affirms that our rationality is the Golden Presumption after all. Finally, if we deny our rationality as a fact (much less a presumption), then we are left with no valid means of continuing. (Besides which, the very act of ‘denial’ is impossible, as such, without presuming our rationality.)
Very well then: “You and I can think” must be presumed to be true, as the formal start of any argument as ‘an argument’–including the argument that recognizes it (not ‘proves’ it to be true) as the Golden Presumption!
[Footnote: Remember that although, technically speaking, it could still be a false presumption, there is literally no reason to speculate that it is false–because the event of such speculation would tacitly require it to be a true fact, and if the fact was false then no reasoning could be taking place during such a speculation!]
I therefore think that such a presumption must be the closest any of us can come, to a mutually agreed-upon formally self-grounding principle.
The next step, before drawing deductions from this presumption, is to figure out with better detail what this presumption means.