[ExI] Making Rationalizations is Superior to the Alternative

Lee Corbin lcorbin at rawbw.com
Sun Apr 12 23:50:49 UTC 2009

Far more interesting than a mere societal question of
whether or not one certain class of Frenchmen ought
in some sense to expel some other class (i.e., should
the Catholics have expelled the Huguenots to Canada)
are the amazing and very striking implications made
by the posts, in their cumulation, on the process
of thinking, and on rational thinking in general.

There indeed was exhibited a great deal of what should
be called "solely right hemispheric thinking". For
example, some assertions (made by me and others)
were and are dismissed out of hand without argument (!)
in many posts.

It ought to be called "solely right hemispheric" because
that is that organ that generates immediate and timeless
aesthetic judgments. Many posters were not at all shy
in emphasizing their *revulsion*, their *disgust*, and
other all-at-once immediate judgments, the province
of the right hemisphere, and evinced utterly no embarrassment
that these were unaccompanied by any explanations or argument.

Now at the best of times these kinds of right-hemispheric
judgments (as opposed to conclusions) are absolutely
necessary for coherent thought. But normally, in the
cases of interest, the process works like this: you see
something, or you hear something, and you form a highly
positive or negative judgment. Next, you search for a
rationalization, literally a sequence (thereby involving
the left hemisphere) of chronologically ordered statements
or steps (even images) that backs up the conclusion you want.

Now as bad as that may sound on first reading, it's actually
good---or at least as good as we're going to get.

For we seldom have any reason to suppose that we are
often capable of anything better. Far long gone and dead,
for example, is the ideal of a scientist who dispassionately
goes about collecting data (completely innocent of any
hypotheses), then analyzes that data, and arrives at some
conclusion. That's a badly distorted view of what the
so-called "scientific method" really does, and everybody
now knows that.

No, we are rationalizers, and that's just the way it is.
And it could be worse. We could be like animals, who
only react to the present circumstance, their minds
unequipped to recall past experience in detail and
unable to rationally extrapolate future experience.

But the reader can easily recall examples where he or she
has engaged in this *rationalizing*, and found, probably
disappointingly, that the hoped for judgment could
not be supported. In fact, the reader recalls that the
more one thought and rethought a judgment he or she had
made initially, the less justified it seemed to be, and
the more that some sudden, new competing hypotheses seemed
to be viewed sympathetically by the right hemisphere.
Gradually in the best cases, a revised judgment is
(perhaps unhappily) finally accepted by the right
hemisphere under the protest that "well, I really have
no choice but to conclude X, as ugly as it is".

But what so surprised me about the exchanges in question
was the *paucity* of rationalization. Many people were
*completely* unembarrassed to put forth very strong
judgments unaccompanied by any reasoning whatsoever, no
matter how evidently after the fact.

How could this be? How could it be especially in an
on-line forum where no immediacy of reflection and no
immediate rebuttal is called for? That is, this kind
of behavior could be expected far more in face-to-face
encounters where no time is permitted for a thoroughly
worked-out left-brain-assisted rationalization.

It's scary. If the Extropian "masses" :-) are so
disinclined to attempt rationalizations of their
aesthetic conclusions, what chance do our democracies
have? How is any instant judgment (say "pro-Obama"
or "anti-Obama") possibly going to be dethroned?

A second question: is this striking absence of non-
rational behavior better, worse, or the same as
at other historical times? As we all become more
and more ADHD, it seems to me that this will just
get worse.


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