Friday, 15 February 2013

Are we rational?

How would we set about demonstrating the nature of rationality? Do we use a rational argument to show what it is to be rational? Sounds alarmingly circular doesn’t it?

A more realistic approach might be to admit that there is no such thing as rationality even though we use it to add a kind of objective lustre to our prejudices.

We are evolved animals with interests, ambitions and habits - we are not machines. Yet even though we may be prepared to admit this crucially important fact, there is a tendency for it to slip out of our grasp whenever it comes to building a rationale for favoured ideas or courses of action.

Politicians know this.

They know the world isn’t rational but political. Whatever we say about them, they have at least grasped this important lesson with both trotters.

Yet many of us would like to be rational, if only in our own estimation. Actually, I suspect most of us are only rational in our own eyes, but not nearly so rational even in the eyes of our loved ones. Yet in spite of the problems, I think the desire to be rational is common enough in non-political folk. But...

Political types don't give a fig for rationality.

Tragically, this desire to be rational hands politically-minded people a major advantage. When it comes to promoting a point of view, they have far more resources than those who always insist on trying to articulate the voice of reason.

The politically-minded say anything, dream up any cause, invent statistics and generally flit around the realm of possibilities, and indeed impossibilities, with gay abandon. It isn't possible to shoot them down with rational arguments. It's not even worth the effort because that's not the game they are playing.

It seems to me that this is one of the strengths of blogging when faced with such a powerful and elusive foe. The arguments are now much wider, more witty, bawdy and pointed than ever they were in the days when the mainstream media was almost all we had. Talking heads on TV were a joke really. Still are.

It’s why blogs and comments are so important and why many bloggers leave comments on other blogs. It’s sand in the political wheels.

Or is that merely an irrational hope?.


Anonymous said...

Back in the Bush/Rumsfeld days the word was 'we make our own reality, by the time you figure out what it is we have moved on'. Politicians had no need of reality or rationality - while the cash lasted. Now, like the scientist whose experiment has failed they are forced to re-open the textbooks and put noses to grindstones.

Demetrius said...

There was a report in the paper, I think today, to the effect that in some brain functions chimpanzees were better than humans. The surprising thing is I was not surprised.

Sackerson said...

James Higham said...

and indeed impossibilities, with gay abandon

Tut tut. :)

A K Haart said...

Roger - but do they know how?

Demetrius - neither was I.

Sackers - thanks for the link. I don't mind being told what to think because I'm moderately selective. How do I know though?

James - (: