If one of the oldest philosophical questions is what we can grasp, then it is one that is immediately related to the question of power. Understanding has been long linked to cultivation and the manipulation of the various materials of the Earth, whether that be the moral character of persons, or the motion of the seasons and heavens.
The promise of reason, when it was made thematic, politically, scientifically and ethically, at the dawn of the Enlightenment, was that the new sovereign individual would find no limit in what they could grasp and manipulate. The general will would take care of despotism, and reason, if we could just be instructed in its proper and legitimate uses, would ensure the coincidence of a society of rational agents. The problem with this is rationality is merely a structure for connecting positive contents, an operation, but gives no contents itself —it naturally lends itself to a management and a quickening. But a management and a quickening of what? Well, whatever escaped its grasp and bled under the surface.
Reason’s limitation of being only able to trade in rational objects, lego pieces with the correctly sized noblets (propositions, states of affairs, quantities), presents two problems when we centralize it across all domains of discourse: firstly, it either requires that the objects it is going to grasp, connect, and manipulate be squeezed into the shapes of rational objects, with clear inputs and outputs, despite these ‘objects’ perhaps being heterogenous, multilayered, vague-in-themselves. Secondly, in the complexity and the vagueness of the material native to the domains where reason hopes to exercise its management, it may slide right over them, orthogonally, taking haphazard pieces here and there, and thus become a machine quickening and managing dangerous and mad chimeras. Truthfully these are one and the same problem: of the residual excluded remainder that subsists under reason’s operations. The cutting floor.