Culture and reason

XunWu Chen, Fordham University


The concern about human reason is the dominant preoccupation in contemporary philosophy. Many contributors have developed significant insights into reason. MacIntyre points out an intrinsic connection among reason, tradition, conflict and history; reason is a tradition-constituted capacity to justify inquiry and the life of a society. Habermas shows the normativity of reason, seeing reason as an intersubjectivity embodied in communicative praxis and a set of communicative norms. Brown insists that reason is a rhetorical creativity, the capacity to construct meaning and order out of a practical context. Appropriating these insights described above, I argue that reason is a creative as well as conservative power embodied in cultural practices. Human culture today designates a principal arena in which the sovereignty and power of human reason is challenged and tested; reason is both the power to which we should appeal in hope of resolving cultural conflicts and itself a source of conflicts. Culture is understood here as a complex of social institutions, institutionalized beliefs, values and symbols of meaning, and institutional practices. A culture constitutes both a matrix and a challenge to reason. To see this, it is important to see the role of ideology in our action, thinking and self-consciousness. Ideology is understood as a complex of institutionalized beliefs, values, symbols of meaning, Weltanschauung and pattern of understanding; it is that by which social institutions and practices described, explain and evaluate themselves. Reason is the creative as well as conservative power making possible cultural practice of definite character; it is mediated by culture and articulated in culture; it is thus culturally embedded. In addition, it develops itself historically, having a historical character. Nonetheless, the validity claim of reason goes beyond any historical or practical context of cultural practice. Reason is context-transcending, universal. It makes possible progress and creative reproduction of culture. Culture without reason is non-reflective, blind. Reason without culture is empty and non-real.

Subject Area

Educational theory|Philosophy

Recommended Citation

Chen, XunWu, "Culture and reason" (1994). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9425192.