The March Philosophy Book of the Month is Final Notice by Van Fleisher. Discuss Final Notice now.

The April Philosophy Book of the Month is The Unbound Soul by Richard L. Haight. Discuss The Unbound Soul Now

The May Philosophy Book of the Month is Misreading Judas by Robert Wahler.

Rationality

Use this philosophy forum to discuss and debate general philosophy topics that don't fit into one of the other categories.

This forum is NOT for factual, informational or scientific questions about philosophy (e.g. "What year was Socrates born?"); such homework-help-style questions can be asked and answered on PhiloPedia: The Philosophy Wiki. If your question is not already answered on the appropriate PhiloPedia page, then see How to Request Content on PhiloPedia to see how to ask your informational question using the wiki.
User avatar
chewybrian
Posts: 477
Joined: May 9th, 2018, 7:17 pm
Favorite Philosopher: Epictetus
Location: Florida man

Re: Rationality

Post by chewybrian » November 30th, 2019, 11:21 am

Pattern-chaser wrote:
November 30th, 2019, 7:32 am
Here's an interesting contrast to 'rational' behaviour: article about gratitude. This isn't an alternative to rationality, it's a complementary approach. As so many things are, I think?
Intentional or not, this is a restatement of a fundamental building block of stoic philosophy: forming a grateful disposition.
Men are disturbed, not by things, but by the principles and notions which they form concerning things. Death, for instance, is not terrible, else it would have appeared so to Socrates. But the terror consists in our notion of death that it is terrible. When therefore we are hindered, or disturbed, or grieved, let us never attribute it to others, but to ourselves; that is, to our own principles. An uninstructed person will lay the fault of his own bad condition upon others. Someone just starting instruction will lay the fault on himself. Some who is perfectly instructed will place blame neither on others nor on himself.
Where is the line between a 'non-event', a minor inconvenience, and a tragedy, in terms of your emotional response, its effects on your attitude? There is no line, unless you choose to draw it.
Sickness is a hindrance to the body, but not to your ability to choose, unless that is your choice. Lameness is a hindrance to the leg, but not to your ability to choose. Say this to yourself with regard to everything that happens, then you will see such obstacles as hindrances to something else, but not to yourself.
Whatever happens, you can find it to be a challenge or an opportunity, rather than a burden or hardship.
With every accident, ask yourself what abilities you have for making a proper use of it. If you see an attractive person, you will find that self-restraint is the ability you have against your desire. If you are in pain, you will find fortitude. If you hear unpleasant language, you will find patience. And thus habituated, the appearances of things will not hurry you away along with them.
This outlook is far from an alternative to rational thought, as you say. You need not avoid unpleasant truths, but rather accept that truth is truth, and 'unpleasant' is only an opinion.
Let death and exile, and all other things which appear terrible be daily before your eyes, but chiefly death, and you win never entertain any abject thought, nor too eagerly covet anything.
The point is not to be depressed thinking about such things, but to learn to accept that they are part of reality, which removes the sting or surprise when sickness, disaster or death come calling. This is a photo I like to bring to mind every time I start to get upset or down:

Image

These people were freed by the allies on their way to a concentration camp. Why is it useful to me? Look at the joy on their faces. What do they have at that moment, and what do I have right now? They had lost most of their families, their homes, their jobs, their possessions, virtually everything. Yet, they were happy just for the chance to start over with nothing. Why shouldn't I be happy to carry on with what I already have? If I can choose to see my situation through their eyes, I can see opportunity instead of roadblocks, hope instead of despair.

I would not say this outlook is irrational in the least, though it may stretch the limits of what many people see as rational. They may feel they have no choice about what opinions to form about events. Yet, it is fair to say opinion is one of the few things fully in your control.
Some things are in our control and others not. Things in our control are opinion, pursuit, desire, aversion, and, in a word, whatever are our own actions. Things not in our control are body, property, reputation, command, and, in one word, whatever are not our own actions.

The things in our control are by nature free, unrestrained, unhindered; but those not in our control are weak, slavish, restrained, belonging to others. Remember, then, that if you suppose that things which are slavish by nature are also free, and that what belongs to others is your own, then you will be hindered. You will lament, you will be disturbed, and you will find fault both with gods and men. But if you suppose that only to be your own which is your own, and what belongs to others such as it really is, then no one will ever compel you or restrain you. Further, you will find fault with no one or accuse no one. You will do nothing against your will. No one will hurt you, you will have no enemies, and you not be harmed.
(Quotes are from The Enchiridion, by Epictetus) http://classics.mit.edu/Epictetus/epicench.html
"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."

User avatar
Sculptor1
Posts: 946
Joined: May 16th, 2019, 5:35 am

Re: Rationality

Post by Sculptor1 » November 30th, 2019, 6:07 pm

Pattern-chaser wrote:
November 30th, 2019, 10:49 am
Sculptor1 wrote:
November 29th, 2019, 12:47 pm
...I would not want to deny the possibility that the microsecond decisions made with what we like to call "instinct" are not based on a process of reason (albeit very fast), just not conscious.
Anything that allows us to react faster than we ourselves can think must be pre-programmed (or some logical equivalent). I honestly can't see how any form of considered thought is possible in these timescales. It takes too long. We'd be dead, as several other commentators have observed. So it's fight or flight, or some similar pre-programmed response.
I think you massively underestimate the speed of thinking.
Consciousness is slow, at the bounaries of the brain, the gray matter.
Just watch someone play Chopin – Étude Op. 10 No. 4 - there is no way you can consciously think about any specific key the hands are playing.
Experienced piano players can sight read this stuff.

Sculptor1 wrote:
November 29th, 2019, 12:47 pm
When I think how well I drive; never thinking consciously about my gear changes as I take the racing line over the roundabout, whilst still being aware of what is in the mirrors (behind left and right), and singing along to Led Zep, and scratching my nose - the human brain is far more than consciousness, and I can't see how all this can happen with no reasoning.
This, as you know well, is driven by unconscious thought; thought (processes) of which we are unconscious or unaware. So it is quite impossible for us to be aware - or even to become aware? - of our unconscious thoughts themselves, or their nature. In scientific terms, we are stopped by our absolute inability to make empirical observations. So can mere speculation profit us here, I wonder? 🤔

Jaded Sage
Posts: 45
Joined: December 15th, 2014, 4:45 am

Re: Rationality

Post by Jaded Sage » November 30th, 2019, 9:12 pm

Personally, I find myself to be the only rational person I know. Many claim to be rational, but fall short of the mark.

User avatar
Pattern-chaser
Posts: 157
Joined: September 22nd, 2019, 5:17 am
Favorite Philosopher: Cratylus
Location: England

Re: Rationality

Post by Pattern-chaser » December 1st, 2019, 8:26 am

chewybrian wrote:
November 30th, 2019, 11:21 am
Intentional or not, this is a restatement of a fundamental building block of stoic philosophy: forming a grateful disposition.
OK. Are you suggesting that gratitude is rational, or is this just something that my post stirred in you? I offered an example where rationality is not a core criterion. Such examples mostly refer to human culture*, where matters other than rationality also apply. It's not that these examples are devoid of rationality, independent of rationality, or that they oppose it in some way. They do not. But rationality is not at the centre of such things. There are many other examples besides gratitude (which I posted only because I came across the article yesterday, and it seemed like a good example).

[ * - using the word in its widest sense. Science, for example, is part of human culture, although its subject matter is not. ]
Pattern-chaser

"Who cares, wins"

User avatar
Pattern-chaser
Posts: 157
Joined: September 22nd, 2019, 5:17 am
Favorite Philosopher: Cratylus
Location: England

Re: Rationality

Post by Pattern-chaser » December 1st, 2019, 8:35 am

Sculptor1 wrote:
November 30th, 2019, 6:07 pm
I think you massively underestimate the speed of thinking.
Maybe so, but I suspect not.
It’s amazing to consider that a given thought can be generated and acted on in less than 150 ms.
From: It feels instantaneous, but how long does it really take to think a thought?
Pattern-chaser

"Who cares, wins"

User avatar
chewybrian
Posts: 477
Joined: May 9th, 2018, 7:17 pm
Favorite Philosopher: Epictetus
Location: Florida man

Re: Rationality

Post by chewybrian » December 1st, 2019, 11:10 am

Pattern-chaser wrote:
December 1st, 2019, 8:26 am
chewybrian wrote:
November 30th, 2019, 11:21 am
Intentional or not, this is a restatement of a fundamental building block of stoic philosophy: forming a grateful disposition.
OK. Are you suggesting that gratitude is rational, or is this just something that my post stirred in you? I offered an example where rationality is not a core criterion. Such examples mostly refer to human culture*, where matters other than rationality also apply. It's not that these examples are devoid of rationality, independent of rationality, or that they oppose it in some way. They do not. But rationality is not at the centre of such things. There are many other examples besides gratitude (which I posted only because I came across the article yesterday, and it seemed like a good example).

[ * - using the word in its widest sense. Science, for example, is part of human culture, although its subject matter is not. ]
I think forming a grateful disposition is a logical step on the rational stoic approach to finding tranquility, happiness and self-respect. Having lived most of my life without these things, and then having found them, it seems clear to me that these should be universal goals. But, if these goals are not the ones you seek, then working to feel gratitude may not seem like a rational choice. If you believe instead that "the one who dies with the most toys wins", then your rational choices that follow from that assertion will look very different.

I am suggesting here that there is, perhaps, a next level up of rationality, where you examine not just what follows from your world view, but whether your world view leads to the right destination. I suppose rationality becomes subjective at that point, and there may be no 'right' answers, even though we all tend to think we have the right answers, since we feel strongly about our assertions about what matters. Like this...
Jaded Sage wrote:
November 30th, 2019, 9:12 pm
Personally, I find myself to be the only rational person I know. Many claim to be rational, but fall short of the mark.
I'd say this feeling is rather universal. I know I felt this way even when I was heading in a wrong direction. I was not happy, but I still did not understand why many others did not feel and act the same, since I felt I made fair and accurate assumptions about the nature of the world. It's a bit scary to set aside your assumptions and re-examine the world. I guess I could say I was able to do it at least once, and perhaps many people never manage to do it.
"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."

User avatar
Sculptor1
Posts: 946
Joined: May 16th, 2019, 5:35 am

Re: Rationality

Post by Sculptor1 » December 1st, 2019, 2:20 pm

Pattern-chaser wrote:
December 1st, 2019, 8:35 am
Sculptor1 wrote:
November 30th, 2019, 6:07 pm
I think you massively underestimate the speed of thinking.
Maybe so, but I suspect not.
It’s amazing to consider that a given thought can be generated and acted on in less than 150 ms.
From: It feels instantaneous, but how long does it really take to think a thought?
What is interesting is that every answer you have comes from a place deeper than your consciousness, scanners can predict your decisions before you know you are making a choice.

User avatar
Pantagruel
Posts: 65
Joined: July 2nd, 2019, 5:26 pm
Favorite Philosopher: Henri Bergson

Re: Rationality

Post by Pantagruel » December 1st, 2019, 2:39 pm

Sculptor1 wrote:
December 1st, 2019, 2:20 pm
What is interesting is that every answer you have comes from a place deeper than your consciousness, scanners can predict your decisions before you know you are making a choice.
This is true. But I recently read a critique of this type of cognitive result, to the effect that making choices in an artificially constructed context isn't necessarily the same as making a 'real' choice in a living situation, where there may be more ambiguities involved. So as a fact about brain function, yes, but when extrapolated to the full scope of choice and freedom, not necessarily so.

User avatar
Sculptor1
Posts: 946
Joined: May 16th, 2019, 5:35 am

Re: Rationality

Post by Sculptor1 » December 1st, 2019, 5:58 pm

Pantagruel wrote:
December 1st, 2019, 2:39 pm
Sculptor1 wrote:
December 1st, 2019, 2:20 pm
What is interesting is that every answer you have comes from a place deeper than your consciousness, scanners can predict your decisions before you know you are making a choice.
This is true. But I recently read a critique of this type of cognitive result, to the effect that making choices in an artificially constructed context isn't necessarily the same as making a 'real' choice in a living situation, where there may be more ambiguities involved. So as a fact about brain function, yes, but when extrapolated to the full scope of choice and freedom, not necessarily so.
I heard that the neural matter in the heart knows before the brain, and even before the the computer picks a randomly selected face, what reaction the mind will have before the picture is even chose.
Personally I think this is a croc of sh1t.
But I had to share this comment which was concluded by the statement that something was "happening outside time and space".
It's all some crapola to do with hearth rate variability.

Jaded Sage
Posts: 45
Joined: December 15th, 2014, 4:45 am

Re: Rationality

Post by Jaded Sage » December 1st, 2019, 9:19 pm

chewybrian wrote:
December 1st, 2019, 11:10 am
I'd say this feeling is rather universal. I know I felt this way even when I was heading in a wrong direction. I was not happy, but I still did not understand why many others did not feel and act the same, since I felt I made fair and accurate assumptions about the nature of the world. It's a bit scary to set aside your assumptions and re-examine the world. I guess I could say I was able to do it at least once, and perhaps many people never manage to do it.
I'd argue it is a thought, rather than a feeling.

User avatar
Pattern-chaser
Posts: 157
Joined: September 22nd, 2019, 5:17 am
Favorite Philosopher: Cratylus
Location: England

Re: Rationality

Post by Pattern-chaser » December 3rd, 2019, 9:28 am

Sculptor1 wrote:
December 1st, 2019, 2:20 pm
What is interesting is that every answer you have comes from a place deeper than your consciousness, scanners can predict your decisions before you know you are making a choice.
Just as interesting is the thought that our 'unconscious mind' is a misleading term. Conscious mind refers to a particular 'part' of our minds; our unconscious minds are what is left after the conscious mind is removed. So the unconscious is responsible for instinctive behaviour ... and a lot of other stuff too; anything that isn't 'conscious'. So the inspiration that lead Coleridge to Kublai Khan came from the unconscious. Our hearts are kept beating by our unconscious minds. And so on. The human mind is a many-faceted thing, and instinctive behaviour is just one of the things it provides.

And it also occurs to me that instinctive behaviour is likely not rational. I think its development is based on evolution, not rationality. Our instinctive responses are built-in, and therefore inherited in some way. They're simply part of being a human being, yes? 🤔
Pattern-chaser

"Who cares, wins"

User avatar
Sculptor1
Posts: 946
Joined: May 16th, 2019, 5:35 am

Re: Rationality

Post by Sculptor1 » December 3rd, 2019, 10:28 am

Pattern-chaser wrote:
December 3rd, 2019, 9:28 am
Sculptor1 wrote:
December 1st, 2019, 2:20 pm
What is interesting is that every answer you have comes from a place deeper than your consciousness, scanners can predict your decisions before you know you are making a choice.
Just as interesting is the thought that our 'unconscious mind' is a misleading term. Conscious mind refers to a particular 'part' of our minds; our unconscious minds are what is left after the conscious mind is removed. So the unconscious is responsible for instinctive behaviour ... and a lot of other stuff too; anything that isn't 'conscious'. So the inspiration that lead Coleridge to Kublai Khan came from the unconscious. Our hearts are kept beating by our unconscious minds. And so on. The human mind is a many-faceted thing, and instinctive behaviour is just one of the things it provides.

And it also occurs to me that instinctive behaviour is likely not rational. I think its development is based on evolution, not rationality. Our instinctive responses are built-in, and therefore inherited in some way. They're simply part of being a human being, yes? 🤔
Yes, but..

No.
I mean every word I am typing comes through the unconscious. It's far more than instinct.
If you had to stop and think about every word, every letter, how to find the key on the key board, all the while managing to keep an eye on your fingers and the screen, life would be painfully slow.

User avatar
PAntoneO
New Trial Member
Posts: 9
Joined: October 13th, 2019, 12:15 pm

Re: Rationality

Post by PAntoneO » December 3rd, 2019, 10:07 pm

chewybrian wrote:
November 26th, 2019, 7:43 am
What does it mean to be rational?
This is a very big question; I'm not sure I can answer what I think it is in a short reply. Here's my attempt: There are two hemispheres of the brain. Each is typically used to perform a different type of task that I think can be characterized as 1) more holistic and 2) more rational. The holistic side of the brain sees problems and situations as a singular whole. The rational side of the brain tends to see things as a collection of parts. The holistic side of the brain sees problems and situations as being more relative in nature. The rational side of the brain tends to see things in terms of black and white, yes or no, part-A or not part-A. The holistic side of the brain sees problems and situations as they really are, without assigning names to what it sees. The rational side of the brain tends to pull what it sees apart, giving things names so that it can try to make sense out of what it sees. The holistic side of the brain tends to think in terms of abstractions. The rational side of the brain tends to think in terms of concrete physical things.

Normally, both sides of the brain work together seamlessly to process information and create thoughts in the most efficient manner possible. When we're being irrational, that efficiency drops to a relatively low level. Irrationality is not the opposite brain function of rationality; rather it is the absence of rationality--which requires the holistic side of the brain to be of optimum use.
chewybrian wrote:
November 26th, 2019, 7:43 am
How close do most people get? What about you?
Every person who isn't in a mental institution is a rational being. But some people are governed more by their intuitions and emotions. Emotions also seem to play a vital role in the proper functioning of the brain. According to Antonio Damasio, in a book called "Descartes Error" people who have suffered damage to the emotional centers of their brain tend to loose the ability to think normally. In particular, they may not be able to control their outbursts or they may not be able to make reasonable decisions. Think about it, if you can't assign an emotional value to each factor that governs a decision, then why would you have any reason to make it?

People often use the term rational to mean what I would call logical. Logical people tend to be a little less governed by their emotions.

I am an INTX personality type on the Brigss/Meyer type indicator test. The T stands for thinking, as opposed to feeling and when I was tested, I was as far to the extreme on the feeling side as they could measure. I think this is pretty accurate. I've always considered myself to be a fairly logical person; and I've never been very in tune with my feelings. As you'd expect, I often have a hard time making decisions that affect me personally.
chewybrian wrote:
November 26th, 2019, 7:43 am
What stops people from reaching their highest potential of rationality?
Many things--but one of the most significant is an inability for the two sides of their brain to communicate efficiently. Another is when the wrong side of the brain has learned to work on the wrong types of problems. Another is being in an overly emotional situation. etc, etc.
chewybrian wrote:
November 26th, 2019, 7:43 am
Do people willfully choose to avoid being rational? Why? Do you?
Sure, when we listen to music without thinking about it; when we mediate; and so on. The why is probably self-explanatory. And yes, I do these sorts of things.

If you're defining rational as being synonymous with logical, then the answer is again yes. A good example of this are atheists who argue that believing in God is anti-scientific and irrational--without seeing the hypocrisy in their own beliefs. Since there is no irrefutable evidence either for or against the existence of God, the only completely logical and scientific belief about God is agnosticism. Atheists are often at least as fanatical about their insistence that God doesn't exist as religious sorts are that God does exist. I believe both sides ignore the obvious in favor of choosing the side that makes them feel better about things. I suspect this is not based particularly on logic, but on emotions; and I think one could argue that it is a willful choice to do so.
chewybrian wrote:
November 26th, 2019, 7:43 am
Is there a second level up of rationality? In other words, it's one thing to act using perfect logic upon observations or assumptions or information provided to you. It is another to carefully examine the trustworthiness of these sources and to find new and better ways to analyze your environment.
If I understand what you're asking, then I'd suggest that philosophy is probably the best candidate for this "second level up."

Ironically, however, I believe that modern Western Philosophers almost invariably tend to think of things from the perspective of the holistic mind, or from the perspective of the rational mind--instead of seeing reality as a union of these two things. Another way to say this is that they either believe all things are essentially physical in nature... or they believe all things are essentially conceptual in nature. But I believe that to accurately understand nature you have to embrace both sides. The holistic side of the brain does this automatically, but when we try to sterilize our thoughts for philosophical discussion, we are necessarily getting rid of most of the contextual clues that help us to unconsciously make the transitions from thinking of something as a concept vs. a physical thing.

Because of this, philosophy is (at least in some ways) a step down, rather than a step up. A philosophy that united these two reciprocal aspects, however, would be a true step up.
chewybrian wrote:
November 26th, 2019, 7:43 am
Is there a third level up? What would that be?
not sure.

chewybrian wrote:
November 26th, 2019, 7:43 am
Is it wise to work to become as rational as possible in all cases, or is there any advantage to turning off your rational side? When and how does rational analysis fail? If there is a time to abandon rationality, how do you know when it is upon you?
The onset of irrationality can play an important role in survival. After you've exhausted all the logical choices, without any success, the only logical thing to do is to make some illogical choices and see if any of them are greeted with success. Sometime the completely illogical choice is the one that works, in an extreme situation. In part, this is because the things that we think are logical are based on past encounters--and the current encounter wouldn't be extremely critical if any of those choices worked. lol. Being illogical in such a situation may not have a very good chance of success, but it's a better chance than doing what we already know doesn't work.

User avatar
chewybrian
Posts: 477
Joined: May 9th, 2018, 7:17 pm
Favorite Philosopher: Epictetus
Location: Florida man

Re: Rationality

Post by chewybrian » December 4th, 2019, 5:15 am

PAntoneO wrote:
December 3rd, 2019, 10:07 pm
chewybrian wrote:
November 26th, 2019, 7:43 am
What does it mean to be rational?
This is a very big question; I'm not sure I can answer what I think it is in a short reply.
I think you gave excellent answers to all the questions.
"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."

User avatar
PAntoneO
New Trial Member
Posts: 9
Joined: October 13th, 2019, 12:15 pm

Re: Rationality

Post by PAntoneO » December 4th, 2019, 8:03 pm

chewybrian wrote:
December 4th, 2019, 5:15 am
I think you gave excellent answers to all the questions.
:D Thanks.

Post Reply