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Reason without wisdom becomes the unreason of fanaticism

A few days ago, on June 18, 2020, the United States Supreme Court ruled on the continuation of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Leaving aside all political issues, this ruling includes an element that must be highlighted and analyzed: the separation between wisdom and reason.

"The wisdom of those decisions (about DACA) is none of our concern," wrote John Roberts, President of the Supreme Court. The Court's determination, Roberts said, was based on the Executive Branch's request to end DACA and did not include a "reasoned explanation" of that request.

Even more specifically, Roberts insisted that the government's actions must be based "on reasons" and on "rational procedure", which clearly did not happen in the case in question.

It is not up to us (much less within the limited space of this column) to analyze that opinion (or any other) of the highest American court. But it must be said that separating wisdom from reason is, at best, risky and, most likely, very dangerous.

Since I lack both the academic and the intellectual capacity to speak about the United States Supreme Court, I will leave that subject entirely, but I still think the recent ruling serves as a clear example of one of the deep roots of the current meaning crisis: separating what is wise from what is rational.

That doesn’t mean, obviously, that wisdom and reason must be fused and confused as if they were a single "thing". That is not the case. But neither should they totally cut off from each other because, although different, they coexist in a ceaseless feedback loop.

The danger of separating them is clear: when reason is disconnected from wisdom, dialogue becomes argument, the purpose of life is reduced to winning arguments and, ultimately, the best arguments succeed, even if they totally lack wisdom.

And while the wise person, precisely because he/she is wise, doesn’t speak, but listens, the argumentator, preciously for being so, doesn’t listen, but speaks. But they speak not to teach, educate, or inspire, but to convince, or, more strictly, to manipulate ideas and wills in a certain direction.

The problem is not new. Those argumentators who sold themselves to the highest bidder to win arguments and who ignored Plato's wisdom called them sophists. They were neither wise (sophos) nor lovers of wisdom (philo-sophos), but lovers of appearances (philo-doxos). And they made tons of money for doing what they did.

In other words, when wisdom is separated from reason, however lacking in wisdom, ethics, or beauty an idea or proposal may be, if its acceptance seems reasonable, it will be accepted. And, at the same time, regardless how wise as an idea or a proposal is, if it seems irrational to accept it, it will be rejected. The examples of those two possibilities are countless.

When we openly state that wisdom is not our concern, we have already irretrievably opened the doors to the unreason of fanaticism. That door, as history reveals, is extremely costly to close. 

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