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Rationality

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Pantagruel
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Re: Rationality

Post by Pantagruel » November 28th, 2019, 4:29 pm

Wouldn't the best decision always by definition be the most rational decision? What is the value of rationality otherwise?

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Sculptor1
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Re: Rationality

Post by Sculptor1 » November 28th, 2019, 6:58 pm

Pantagruel wrote:
November 28th, 2019, 4:29 pm
Wouldn't the best decision always by definition be the most rational decision? What is the value of rationality otherwise?
Only if you had a time machine.

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chewybrian
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Re: Rationality

Post by chewybrian » November 29th, 2019, 7:54 am

Pantagruel wrote:
November 28th, 2019, 4:29 pm
Wouldn't the best decision always by definition be the most rational decision? What is the value of rationality otherwise?
This is what I am trying to find out by asking the questions put forth here.

In one aspect, I think you answered your own question:
Pantagruel wrote:
November 28th, 2019, 8:59 am
Rationality and knowledge would appear to be intimately connected....
It is rational to try to understand the world around you so that you can make good choices in the future. So, if you were rational in the past, you should have a good base of knowledge. But, if you encounter something new, you can still be rational and fail. You could make the most rational decision based on your incomplete knowledge, but fail to make the 'best' decision.

More importantly, though, I'd say your assumptions at the bottom of the pyramid have a huge effect on your decisions higher up. Your decisions could be deemed rational if they are aligned with the priorities laid out at the beginning. But, if your priorities are misplaced, the decision may seem irrational to an outsider with different priorities. Who is to say that the priorities are rational, though? That question seems to fall into that 'suprarational' category. Consider these two conflicting outlooks:

In finance, there is an assumption that increasing wealth is good, and that money represents virtually any other good thing you might want. It makes sense on the surface, as you can buy most things with money. A pile of money is as good as a pile of electronics or lumber or whatever else. From this first idea, it is easy to project the same view onto others, to see the rest of the world as out for themselves and looking to increase their own wealth by any reasonable (even unreasonable) means. You'll find enough evidence to back up this assumption in your travels to be satisfied that you made a fair assessment. Someone like Trump who follows this path can be said to be rational, even approaching fully rational, if you agree to the assertions at the foundation.

But, there is a contrary view of the world which says that virtue is its own reward, that tranquility and friendship need to take priority over wealth. In this view, wealth is a necessary evil, and it can't be traded for inner peace, integrity, loyalty, duty or good will. If you take this view, you will also find ample evidence in the world to see that you are onto something. It is not unfair to say that happiness is the ultimate good, and that your happiness is maximized when you increase the happiness of those around you. I would not say someone is irrational for thinking this way.

Can you use rational analysis to decide which view is the right one? Or, couldn't you say that decisions like these go beyond rationality? In other words, the 'gut' decisions you make prior to rational analysis drive the rational decisions, and could even be said to be more important since they seem to have more impact on the outcome. I think we tend to use rational analysis within the framework laid out by the underlying assumptions about the nature of the world. To approach 'fully rational', we would need to examine the results of our analysis about a potential decision from various world views to see which is truly the rational choice in the big picture.

How often do people make decisions this way? Do you think they should, or that the choices about the nature of the world have already been worked out? If they have, will you tell me the answers, so I can act rationally within that correct framework?
"If determinism holds, then past events have conspired to cause me to hold this view--it is out of my control. Either I am right about free will, or it is not my fault that I am wrong."

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Re: Rationality

Post by Karpel Tunnel » November 29th, 2019, 8:43 am

Pantagruel wrote:
November 28th, 2019, 6:44 am
Karpel Tunnel wrote:
November 27th, 2019, 8:19 pm
And I should have added, sometimes it is irrational to use rationality for certain decisions. In many physical immediate threat situations, you don't want to try to calculate the correct trajectory to fling your body to avoid being hit by a bus, for example. You could try to work out the direction rationally, and die before following the body's intuitive immediate choice.
You don't think it's rational to jump out of the way?
(well, I sure didn't say that) I don't think it's rational to reason your way to the decision. There is a bus coming. I am in the lane. The bus will impact me. My options are to remain here, to signal the bus driver, to move out of the way. Moving out of the way does use more calories, but signalling the bus driver may not be effective given that.... dead.

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Re: Rationality

Post by Karpel Tunnel » November 29th, 2019, 8:55 am

Sculptor1 wrote:
November 28th, 2019, 8:23 am
Karpel Tunnel wrote:
November 27th, 2019, 8:19 pm
And I should have added, sometimes it is irrational to use rationality for certain decisions. In many physical immediate threat situations, you don't want to try to calculate the correct trajectory to fling your body to avoid being hit by a bus, for example. You could try to work out the direction rationally, and die before following the body's intuitive immediate choice.
The meaning of "decision" here is a moot point. I'm not sure you are deciding what to do. And who is to say that the more automated "decision" which leads the body to avoid a bus is not a rational one?
I am saying the process leading to the decision is not one we tend to put in the category rational, which tends to mean a process involving verbal thinking, where conclusions are drawn logically or intended to be logically drawn.

In the example you give you would have to make a bad choice to subvert and interrupt the "automated decision", and that choice would ipos facto be an irrational choice, leading as it does to death or injury - this undermines your position.
Yes, it would be irrational to make that choice. And generally do not make that mistake in immediate physical threat situations. But they certainly overthink or decide to reason out options in less deadly situations, where it would be better to go by intuition. And, again, I am saying I think it makes sense to eliminate the positive and negative value judgment aspects of rationality vs. say intuitive processes, and focus on the differences in the processes. Rational thinking can lead to poor choices or good ones, poor conclusions or good ones. It is a way of approaching conclusions and choices. Sometimes it is not the right choice of method.
Whilst I understand what you are trying to say - I would not be offering it up as a general recommendation to avoid rational decisions.
nnd neither would I.
Most cases would allow a moment's reflection and the avoidance of a fear response would be most often better than a knee-jerk fight or flight decision.
But there are many situations where we should not analyze and try to work out a logically arrived at solution using verbal thought, especially when there are a lot of factors and/or we have expertise built up over time and/or there is a relatively short period of time to arrive at a conclusion or choice.

My point is not to argue, at all, that rationality is bad or even neutral. It is an option we have that few other creatures to and those that have it, if they do, have it at a much more limited level. This gives us all sorts of advantages. I am not trying to take any of this away from rationality. I think, however it is best to think of it as a process, remove positive attributes from the meaning of the term - not remove them from our thinking about rationality, but from the definition of it. And then to notice that given it is a specific process, it will suit some situations better than others.

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chewybrian
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Re: Rationality

Post by chewybrian » November 29th, 2019, 10:09 am

Karpel Tunnel wrote:
November 29th, 2019, 8:43 am
Pantagruel wrote:
November 28th, 2019, 6:44 am


You don't think it's rational to jump out of the way?
(well, I sure didn't say that) I don't think it's rational to reason your way to the decision. There is a bus coming. I am in the lane. The bus will impact me. My options are to remain here, to signal the bus driver, to move out of the way. Moving out of the way does use more calories, but signalling the bus driver may not be effective given that.... dead.
Simpsons did it. Homer tries to get the nerd kids back in the good graces of the dean by arranging for them to save his life. He drives his car at the dean...

Nerd kid: "OK, get ready to push him out of the way in exactly 3 seconds."

Other nerd kid: "Should we correct for wind resistance?"

Third nerd: "Hmmm...possibly. What do you think?" *SPLAT*(dean gets run over)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ASIAHRUZMm4
"If determinism holds, then past events have conspired to cause me to hold this view--it is out of my control. Either I am right about free will, or it is not my fault that I am wrong."

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Pantagruel
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Re: Rationality

Post by Pantagruel » November 29th, 2019, 10:28 am

So the ability to recognize exigency may be one of the cardinal features of Rationality

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Re: Rationality

Post by Karpel Tunnel » November 29th, 2019, 10:55 am

Pantagruel wrote:
November 29th, 2019, 10:28 am
So the ability to recognize exigency may be one of the cardinal features of Rationality
it seems to me fish can recognize exigency.

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Re: Rationality

Post by Karpel Tunnel » November 29th, 2019, 11:04 am

chewybrian wrote:
November 29th, 2019, 10:09 am
Simpsons did it. Homer tries to get the nerd kids back in the good graces of the dean by arranging for them to save his life. He drives his car at the dean...

Nerd kid: "OK, get ready to push him out of the way in exactly 3 seconds."

Other nerd kid: "Should we correct for wind resistance?"

Third nerd: "Hmmm...possibly. What do you think?" *SPLAT*(dean gets run over)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ASIAHRUZMm4
Lovely example!

Of course it doesn't just have to be in situations of immediate physical threat or choice. If there is an absence of definitive criteria, time restrictions, an extremely large amount of data and enough novelty to make it hard to prioritize the data are factors that can mean one is better off going with intuition.

Also intuition can be better if one has built up expertise over long periods of time. Just as a batter can become less effective if he or she starts thinking about the batter stance during a game - often leading to choking (and not on the bat) - experts are often much better off not verbally mulling over most steps in portions of their work. They can make rapid judgments of for example character or honesty (elite detectives or poker players). But may very well create a muddle if they start analyzing rationally and creating justifications for judgments in a verbal way in their minds. You can 'choke' with just about any skill.

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Re: Rationality

Post by Steve3007 » November 29th, 2019, 11:24 am

I think The Simpsons has a long enough history that most philosophical points can be illustrated by a well chosen excerpt from its back catalogue. At least, that's what I've found in the past.

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Re: Rationality

Post by Karpel Tunnel » November 29th, 2019, 11:32 am

Pantagruel wrote:
November 29th, 2019, 10:28 am
So the ability to recognize exigency may be one of the cardinal features of Rationality
I shouldn't have been so facile. Good rationality would include the ability to recognize exigency. Recognizing exigency might come through intuition or it might come through rational analysis.

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Re: Rationality

Post by Sculptor1 » November 29th, 2019, 11:58 am

Karpel Tunnel wrote:
November 29th, 2019, 10:55 am
Pantagruel wrote:
November 29th, 2019, 10:28 am
So the ability to recognize exigency may be one of the cardinal features of Rationality
it seems to me fish can recognize exigency.
We need to take care using rational, reason and rationality interchangeably.
Whilst reason is a necessary part of rationality; there is more to rationality than reason which itself might be quite simple.

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Re: Rationality

Post by Karpel Tunnel » November 29th, 2019, 12:18 pm

Sculptor1 wrote:
November 29th, 2019, 11:58 am
Karpel Tunnel wrote:
November 29th, 2019, 10:55 am
it seems to me fish can recognize exigency.
We need to take care using rational, reason and rationality interchangeably.
Whilst reason is a necessary part of rationality; there is more to rationality than reason which itself might be quite simple.
I agree.

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Re: Rationality

Post by Pattern-chaser » November 29th, 2019, 12:27 pm

Sculptor1 wrote:
November 28th, 2019, 3:54 pm
"And I should have added, sometimes it is irrational to use rationality for certain decisions." - the point is not well made since it would not be "rational" in this case to subvert the automated response of the human body.
You missed my point, not that it was all that central to our discussion. 😐 My point is that, in an example such as we are considering here, there is no time for rational, conscious, thought. It's instinct or nothing. Our view of reality is roughly 250 ms in the past, because that's how long it takes our brain/mind to process what comes in via our senses, and make some kind of sense of it all. To act in a shorter time than that is only possible for us if our instinctive and (as you say) unconscious minds do the work for us.

As for whether our instinctive behaviour is rational, I don't know, but my guess is that it is not. Reason and logic seem far too considered and, well, conscious, for our unconscious minds to work likewise. But who knows? 🤔
Pattern-chaser

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Re: Rationality

Post by Pattern-chaser » November 29th, 2019, 12:35 pm

Pantagruel wrote:
November 28th, 2019, 4:29 pm
Wouldn't the best decision always by definition be the most rational decision? What is the value of rationality otherwise?
Assuming that we use and intend "rational" to mean according to reason and logic, as the dictionary suggests, then I think it's clear that there are circumstances where rationality is the very last thing we need or want. In human relationships, assessing and judging art (pictures, music, etc), considering religion, including the Eastern ones that may not actually involve God, and so on. None of these would benefit from rationality.

But you ask what is the value of rationality? It's value is where it is an appropriate and useful tool, when it guides us to better and more valuable answers than we would otherwise have reached. A screwdriver retains its value even though it's of little use for hanging wallpaper. Not all tools suit all needs, but the tools remain valuable for their utility when they are the appropriate tool. That's the value of rationality.
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