Mathematical Reasoning and Religious/Moral Decision Making: A Rationalist Perspective


Mathematics and practical moral behavior seem totally divergent. When we think of mathematics, the adjectives logical, certain, precise, dispassionate and trustworthy come to mind. These adjectives do not apply to our moral decisions. Yet, this paper argues that a close consideration of mathematical reasoning could inform our religious/moral decision-making. The connection between morals and mathematics is not as strange as it seems in that, going back to Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, Leibnitz and Spinoza there was an intimate, mutually implicative relationship between mathematical reasoning and morals. How can applying mathematical reasoning to moral deliberation help people to make ethical/moral decisions? If there is one area of study that is totally non-ideological, it is the area of mathematics. Mathematics is the search for patterns and applies a rigorous deductive method from axiomatic assumptions. An axiom is a self-evident truth that supports inferences and arguments. Now what do axiomatic assumptions have to do with modern religious and moral discourse on, for example, public issues, which is devoid of mathematical reasoning? There is a connection which warrants investigation. All political contentions regarding issues such as abortion, immigration, health care, etc. imply, even though not usually specifically articulated, axiomatic assumptions from which the substance of these arguments is derived. Like any axiom, political axioms can be logically tested in order to ascertain whether these axioms are adequate to support the political arguments that follow. This paper examines what how mathematical reasoning would be most useful to recall today to inform moral decision-making?


John Ray
Professor, Liberal Studies/Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences, Montana Technological University, Montana, United States


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