[extropy-chat] Rational thinking

Jef Allbright jef at jefallbright.net
Fri Dec 1 19:29:10 UTC 2006

Chris Hibbert wrote:
> One of my conclusions from the discussion that Jef and I were 
> having is that while you can call them both rational, they 
> aren't the same kind of rationality.  The kamikaze pilots 
> were doing the best they could in a fairly constrained 
> situation.  Their previous actions and decisions led them to 
> where they were, but in context, they weren't acting 
> irrationally.  The founders of the constitution were calmly 
> considering all options, discussing alternative theories and 
> approaches, and thinking about the effects of their proposals 
> as far out as they could see.

Parsing this I get the following:

Rationality of founding fathers
  Acted calmly. (While calmness is associated with greater rationality,
their emotional state by itself says nothing about their rationality.)
  Thoroughly considered options, theories, approaches. (Not possible to
consider "all" options as stated.)
  Thought about extended effects.

Rationality of kamikaze pilots
  Did best they could under constraints. (I think you would also apply
this to the other case.)
  Their past determined their present. (Applies to all cases.)
  Acted rationally within context. (I think you would also apply to the
other case.)

So it appears that your point is the following:

"Two kinds of rationality"
(1) Considered calmly and thoroughly within larger scope.
(2) Considered quickly under pressure within smaller scope.

Do you really think these are differences in kind, or could they be just
qualitative differences of scale?  Of course an angry person can be
rational, right?  Of course a quick decision under pressure can be
rational, right?  And consideration of extended consequences is always
constrained to some extent.

And let's be wary of falling into the thinking-trap whereby no decision
is "rational" because no process of decision-making nor source of
knowledge can be perfectly founded.  Have you already read overviews of
rational philosophy on the web to get a good idea of where your thinking

Or did I miss your point?

Oh, and please don't confuse rationality with morality.  If the
difference isn't clear, I am happy to discuss it.

- Jef

P.S. Note that I do not necessarily agree with some of the surrounding
statements such as that the founding fathers were generally calm, or
that the kamikaze pilots were generally proud, but I wanted to clarify
this so these details don't become issues for discussion.

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