[extropy-chat] Logical or rational?

Lee Corbin lcorbin at rawbw.com
Mon Dec 11 04:47:23 UTC 2006

Anna writes

> I apologize for my previous post.
> I was confusing the word "rational" with the word
> "logical".  
> The example given regarding the suicide bombers was
> tricky.

Yes, they are, because the human mind wants to 
employ against them every negative term. Admitting
that suicide bombers might be rational (given their
goals) or that the men who flew aircraft into the 
twin towers were very brave, just sticks in people's

But people have to make an effort to discourse logically,
and be unafraid if some flattering things need to be said
even about Hitler or Stalin.

> As Bill mentionned the definition of rational is:
> They say that 'rational' is generally used for
> intelligent goal-seeking behaviour (i.e. non-random
> behaviour). But admit that values must judge whether
> the goal is rational or not. So you can have rational
> behaviour seeking to achieve non-rational
> goals (and vice-versa).

That's how most of us were using the term. But understand
that many here do *not* approve of this usage, and will
continue to mean something quite different by the term.

> My first response was that suicide bombers are
> irrational. I now think that they are being rational
> based upon what they believe.  Such as religious
> points of view, life after death, etc.  
> Whether I believe that their religious points of view,
> etc, are wrong or not, is irrelevant.

Quite right, in my opinion.

> Now the definition for logical is: capable of or reflecting
> the capability for correct and valid reasoning - Princeton
> I don't think suicide bombers are very logical. Their
> thoughts are based on their own perspectives (or
> perspectives within their surroundings.)

What's wrong with having one's thoughts based upon one's
perspective?  More to the point, how can one possibly
avoid doing so?

> No matter the reasoning (religion, pride, after life reward),
> the effect outweighs the cause.  Logical is knowing that a
> life is worth close to zero compared to a 1000 lives,
> that's why the bombers are rational but not logical.  

I believe that they *were* and *are* being most logical,
given their goals. As you wrote, being logical amounts to
using valid reasoning.  And if your goal is jihad, then what
could be illogical about killing non-believers?

> Then I wondered, what really makes someone irrational?
> I'm not sure about this one but I think that
> irrational is knowing logic and choosing not to apply
> it.
> Ex: Knowing that eating fast food is bad for you but
> choosing to do it anyway.

Yes, it seems to me that you are right about this. In fact,
"irrational" is far easier to use with confidence than is
"rational".  I like your characterization:  being irrational
is knowing at some level what you really most want to do,
but not being able to do it.

> Anyway, I hope I have at least begun to grasp some of
> the discussion, all I can do is try:)

Hey, don't kid yourself.  We're all in the same boat!
I'd quit apologizing for it if I were you  :-)   Your 
genuine concern for speaking, appreciating, and 
getting to the truth comes through loud and clear.


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