[extropy-chat] examples of rational irrationalism

BillK pharos at gmail.com
Sat Dec 9 22:57:55 UTC 2006

On 12/9/06, Lee Corbin wrote:
> Stuart writes
> > Well if you are engaged in a game (survival, stock
> > market, tennis, parcheesi, it's all the same), the
> > utility of any particular "move" is generally your
> > "score".
> >
> > A rational player is defined as a player who makes
> > moves to raise ones score and draw closer to winning
> > the game. To make moves intent on lowering ones score
> > and losing the game is thereby irrational
> I concur.  But too many people on this list refuse to use
> our meanings of the word "rational", as in the good
> example you've provided.
> I'm afraid it's time to abandon ship.  Words are like ball-bearings
> on a skating rink:  to get anywhere, you have to tread carefully and
> be especially wary of putting too much weight on any one of them.

We are not allowed to have our own personal meanings for words.
Not if you wish to communicate with speakers of the same language.

'Define your terms' is always a good idea when confusion arises.

The web gives everybody access to many dictionaries, thesauri and
encyclopaedias. If someone finds that none of these references include
the meaning that they wish to attach to 'rational', then they are in
trouble. They will be unable to argue for their version of 'rational',
because nobody else will know what they are talking about.

If the dictionaries disagree with you, the solution is for you to use
a different word for your concept.

There are four recognised usages of rational.

1. Rational - Consistent with or based upon or using reason.
              Similar to:
              coherent, lucid: capable of thinking and expressing
yourself in a clear
                                     and consistent manner
              intelligent, reasoning, thinking: endowed with the
capacity to reason.
              reasonable, sane: marked by sound judgement.
              demythologised: having mythical elements removed.
              e.g. rational behaviour, rational thought.

2. Rational - Having its source in or being guided by the intellect.
                   (Distinguished from experience or emotion).
                  e.g. a rational analysis.

3. Rational - Of or associated with, or requiring the use of the mind.
                  e.g. The triumph of the rational over the animal side of man.

4.Rational - In maths - Capable of being expressed as a quotient of integers.
                  e.g. rational numbers.


The point from the above that seems to have been omitted from the
discussions is that for the thinking to be called 'rational'  it must
be demythologised. Thus, when myths become involved in the thinking or
behaviour, it stops being 'rational'.
The same applies to emotion or experience. When these distort the
reasoning or behaviour, it stops being rational

'Irrational' is the word for these distorted results.

In some circumstances, it might be a good idea to drive yourself into
a berserker rage and start killing as many people as you can. e.g. In
an ancient hand-to-hand battle. But you would not be behaving
rationally while you were fighting. It is a misuse of the word to call
such behaviour 'rational'. Call it 'animal survival instinct', 'fight
for life', 'desperation' 'kill or be killed', but it is not the cool,
clear, logical analysis called 'rational', beyond the influence of
myths, religion, emotions, past experiences, etc.


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