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Rationality Rules

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by Heyo, Mar 28, 2020.

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  1. Heyo

    Heyo Well-Known Member

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    No, this not about Stephen Woodford or his YouTube channel Rationality Rules. (Though I'm a big fan.)

    This is about the high value we give to rationality or at least pretend to do so.

    Historically rationality didn't have the same value it has today. No king or emperor has ever been called "the rational". "The Great" is of the highest order, "the brave", "the pious", "the strong", "the conqueror" but never "the smart".

    Martin Luther famously denounced rationality: "For reason is the greatest enemy that faith has: it never comes to the aid of spiritual things, but—more frequently than not—struggles against the Divine Word, treating with contempt all that emanates from God."

    I guess it is one of the greatest achievements of the Enlightenment that rationality has the place it's gained in western society.

    But most of our actions or beliefs are far from rational. We are still the emotional animals we were 20,000 years ago. We rationalize our behaviour after the fact more than we think about it before.

    Why is that so? Why do religious people especially (but not exclusively) try to convince themselves (and others) that their beliefs are rational when they clearly aren't? Wouldn't it be more honest and easier to admit that it's not rational and denounce the societal pressure that everything has to be rational?

    I'm going to make breakfast now, with lots of bacon, eggs and cheese on toast. Is that rational? No, but it tastes good.
     
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  2. mikkel_the_dane

    mikkel_the_dane Well-Known Member

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    Someone: Everything is rational!
    Me: No!

    It is a myth rationality in some sense. We assign an emotional evaluation to rationality and believe it is better than feelings.

    Regards
    Mikkel
     
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  3. dfnj

    dfnj Well-Known Member

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    My question to you would be why would anyone choose to have a set of beliefs resulting in feelings of nihilism as if they had evidence supporting the conclusion life is meaningless?

    People who feel a deep spiritual connection to God live longer.

    Could God Help You Live Longer? | Live Science

    You Asked: Do Religious People Live Longer?

    Religious belief may extend life by 4 years

    Spirituality May Help People Live Longer

    Based on the evidence which set of beliefs seems to be a more rational decision?
     
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  4. Heyo

    Heyo Well-Known Member

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    Did you choose to be religious with the extended life span in mind?
    Or did you choose (or fall into) your religion and later discovered that you had a statistically longer life? (A.k.a. rationalization after the fact.)
    Would you change your religion if I could show the members of the other religion had a longer life span?
    Do you value rationality or do you just pretend?
    Would you become an atheist if I could show you that atheists are statistically more rational?
     
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  5. mikkel_the_dane

    mikkel_the_dane Well-Known Member

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    I was an atheist, but I tried out being religious as a form of psychology. It works for me as it helps with some forms of anxiety, stress and existential angst.
    I am still the same otherwise, I don't even believe in souls, Heaven, Hell and such things.

    Now there is metaphysics in it, but that is not relevant for the part that my belief works as a "crutch". I know that but I don't care, because the "crutch" works.

    So yes, I would change what I do depending on how it works for me. I know enough of psychology in practice to understand cognitive psychology as a way of working with feelings and emotions and how coping works.

    So is it an illusion or delusion? Well, yes, but it works for me.

    Regards
    Mikkel
     
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  6. Eddi

    Eddi Konatga Membro

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    I'm sure there are plenty of smart people who are not rational (e.g. the ignorant)

    And plenty of rational people who are not smart (I used to know such a person, he was really thick but nonetheless rational, intellectually he was lacking)

    I don't believe that the two are synonymous
     
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  7. Heyo

    Heyo Well-Known Member

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    I agree. I mostly used "smart" to avoid the repetition. But neither has been valued that much in the past. "Rationality" or "intelligence" weren't even concepts a few hundred years ago. The closest was "wise" and that also was a rare epithet.
     
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  8. Heyo

    Heyo Well-Known Member

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    An honest and practical even if not rational approach. Sometimes trial and error works better than a theoretical road.
     
  9. mikkel_the_dane

    mikkel_the_dane Well-Known Member

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    Well, "rationality" was a thing in classical western philosophy. It fell out of favor, because in practice we for a while became theocratic and non-democratic. It returned with the Enlightenment as we went secular and democratic.
    "Rationality" is a virtue in secular and democratic societies, as it can be used as an authoritative claim. It has a rhetorical use.

    Regards
    Mikkel
     
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  10. mikkel_the_dane

    mikkel_the_dane Well-Known Member

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    Thanks

    Regards
    Mikkel
     
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  11. Wandering Monk

    Wandering Monk Well-Known Member

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    Reason and science are the only tools we have to comprehend the physical.
     
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  12. Heyo

    Heyo Well-Known Member

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    Subtle. It's interesting how much one can say without saying anything. ;)
     
  13. Erebus

    Erebus Well-Known Member

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    Spot on.


    Good questions. There are a few things I feel people often miss when it comes to rationality:

    1. People often believe that rational = good.

    This is a very common trap people fall into and I suspect it's largely down to the negative connotations of "irrational." If you tell somebody they're being irrational, it's never done as a compliment. Since people don't typically like to have negative things said about them, the automatic response is to defend yourself. People take pride in claiming to be a very rational individual (I've genuinely encountered people who have said that they're always rational) and take offence if that notion is challenged.

    In truth, we aren't being rational for the vast majority of our lives. This isn't purely down to acting and thinking based on emotion either. Mostly we perform actions with barely any thought put into them. It's just that we remember the times when we were rational because... well, because we put thought into those actions.

    As a thought experiment, try to imagine what it would look like to be entirely rational for a day. That is to say you consciously evaluate every action you take. It's impossible, right? To attempt to live your entire life that way strikes me as utterly irrational, which brings me onto point 2.


    2. Rationality is relative.

    If you had to choose between saving your own life or saving the lives of 10 other people, which would you say is the most rational choice?

    There is no objectively true answer to that question as the rational choice depends entirely on what your goals are. If your objective is self preservation, the clear answer is that you save yourself. If you hold that the good of the many outweighs the good of the few, the clear answer is to save the other 10 people.

    I bring this up because I often see people assume that there is a single rational response to every problem. This is one of the reasons why you can have two people with diametrically opposing views who both consider themselves to be rational and the other to be irrational. They have different goals and values which directly influence what is or isn't rational to them. It's as easy to make a rational argument for a life of self-sacrifice for others as it is to argue that you should take whatever you want from others... which takes us to point 3.


    3. Rationality and morality are not the same thing.

    I'll get this out of the way before I start. I don't believe in a single, universally applicable moral code. Instead I believe that morality is a combination of instinctive inclination, cultural norms and personal values. I say this now because it's going to influence how I discuss morality and I don't want to cause confusion for people who don't share my stance.

    People sometimes believe that if everybody behaved rationally, this will invariably lead to a morally desirable outcome for all. Not only does this sentiment run into the problems I outlined in point 2, I also don't see how it's possible to have a morally desirable outcome for everybody. Is it more morally desirable to try to live in universal harmony or to defend your own group from threat? Are soldiers heroic in their endeavours or are they behaving abominably?

    Furthermore, one's sense of morality is often closely tied to irrational emotions and gut reactions. Does the murder of a child upset you more than the murder of an adult? That's irrational and is likely driven by the primal need to protect children. A common rebuttal to that is that the child has longer to live than the adult and so their murder has taken more away from them. The problem with that is simple: You don't know that to be true. The child could have been hit by a bus before their teens while the adult may live past 100.



    Okay, I've spent a fair bit of time here trying to illustrate why the desire to always be rational is absolutely littered with pitfalls. It's okay to be irrational. We all are. That's not to say that rationality is bad though. On the contrary, it can be a very useful tool. It just isn't the holy grail that will save humanity from itself.
     
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  14. lewisnotmiller

    lewisnotmiller Grand Hat
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    1) Choosing what to believe sounds like self deception, although you can choose how to inform yourself (which can indirectly impact belief)
    2) I don't think of my life as meaningless at all. I simply don't think there is a universal meaning.
    3) Were God real, I have no idea how (2) would be at all different, although most Abrahamaic religious folk seem thoroughly convinced that life eternal provides meaning, somehow.
     
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  15. MNoBody

    MNoBody Well-Known Member

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    rationalizing ....ratiocination.... the act of comparison, which is apparently how we do this thing we call thinking....discerning, to cern, to perceive, to seive. to gather and compare.....interacting>processing>repeat cycle....etc.
     
  16. shunyadragon

    shunyadragon shunyadragon
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    I think you have hinted at the problem of claiming the virtues of rationality, because it is simply a fact that all fallible humans are rational by their nature. Unfortunately the question remains as to what is the motivation for humans to use their rational abilities to solve problems and acquire knowledge. The unfortunate motivation to justify self-interest on the individual and community level dominates much of human thinking.
     
    #16 shunyadragon, Mar 28, 2020
    Last edited: Mar 28, 2020
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  17. mikkel_the_dane

    mikkel_the_dane Well-Known Member

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    I don't understand the bold part.

    Regards
    Mikkel
     
  18. Polymath257

    Polymath257 Think & Care
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    Here is a dilemma: Suppose you had a choice to believe the truth, but that belief would shorten your life and make you miserable.

    OR you could believe a comforting falsehood and live a longer, contented life.

    Which would you choose?

    This is not at all a new dilemma. Voltaire brought it out in his story 'The Story of the Good Brahman'. In that story, the Brahman spoke of his uncertainties and the torture of such. He then points out a washer woman who is quite content with her beliefs and happy with the world.

    A quote:
    "I have told myself a hundred times that I should be happy if I were as brainless as my neighbor, but I do not desire such happiness".

    And another:
    "But on reflection it seems that to prefer reason to felicity is to be very senseless. How can this contradiction be explained? Like all the other contradictions, it is a matter of much talk"
     
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  19. mikkel_the_dane

    mikkel_the_dane Well-Known Member

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    Since I don't believe in the truth, I don't have that problem. To me there is no single the truth and even how I view my life changes, because I change as I grow older plus that society changes around me. So I adapt and try to figure out what works best for a period of time and reflect over if I have to change my adaption, because the situation changes.
    But that is just me.

    Yes, of course there are local cases of truth, but no the truth.

    Regards
     
  20. 9-10ths_Penguin

    9-10ths_Penguin 1/10 Subway Stalinist
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    Hmm. He and his anti-trans rant are the reason I - and several co-hosts and prominent ACA members - gave up on the Atheist Experience and the Atheist Community of Austin.
     
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