Front Page Titles (by Subject) Reason and Change - Literature of Liberty, January/March 1978, vol. 1, No. 1
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
Also in the Library:
Reason and Change - Leonard P. Liggio, Literature of Liberty, January/March 1978, vol. 1, No. 1 
Literature of Liberty: A Review of Contemporary Liberal Thought was published first by the Cato Institute (1978-1979) and later by the Institute for Humane Studies (1980-1982) under the editorial direction of Leonard P. Liggio.
About Liberty Fund:
This work is copyrighted by the Institute for Humane Studies, George Mason University, Fairfax, Virginia, and is put online with their permission.
Fair use statement:
Reason and Change
“Radical Change and Rational Argument.” Ethics (USA), 87 (1976): 66–74.
Are truly radical personal or political changes (or revolutions) rationally justifiable? A somewhat related issue raised by Thomas S. Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, 2d edition (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1970) suggests that, in principle, revolutionary change cannot be justified: the revolutionary is in the grip of a new world-view or paradigm. The non-revolutionaries, however, cannot fully understand the new framework. They interpret “new” facts in terms of the old paradigm.
In the Republic, Socrates argues for a revolutionary new Platonic society. To the objection that the utopian Republic's Guardian-class will be unhappy without money, property, or marriage, Socrates argues that in the new society, guardians qua guardians will not desire such goods that men (in nonideal societies) rank highly.
If a person seeks personal inner-harmony or a just social order, he is urged to convert and forfeit his present attachments, perspective, and self to believe the new untested things; he cannot trust his old self or present judgment, but must “leap” into the unknown. The same “Leap Before Looking” (LBL) argument is advanced by Marx and Engles in arguing that men should adapt radical change to create a communist society that will, in effect, transform present human nature and create a new Communist Man purged of the old acquisitive and competitive desires bred into him under capitalism. Similarly, psychotherapists and religionists often recommend adapting radical self-transformation that, from the old self's present perspective seems rationally unjustifiable because there is no continuity between the old self (with its specific personality of wants, desires, and values and the new self that emerges after “conversion.”
The flaw in this is “discontinuity.” Before leaping, the individual cannot fully know or experience what he is leaping towards. He lacks the continuity or bridge between old and new selves. Without the psychological equipment and knowledge of his new standpoint, the old self must view the leap as unintelligible. This “psychological equipment” comes to him only after the leap with the newly created beliefs. This “flaw of noncontinuity” afflicts both rationalist radical social reformers and irrationalists.
If the act is justified only afterward or in the process of acting, then at the moment of decision it lacked rational justification. A necessary condition to rationally justify such acts is a context or reference to the needs or wants of the agent in a continuous fashion.