[ExI] The Rationality of Belief is Relative

Lee Corbin lcorbin at rawbw.com
Thu May 21 17:51:19 UTC 2009

Olga writes

> From: "Lee Corbin" <lcorbin at rawbw.com>
>> Slavery seemed perfectly natural to Aristotle
>> and Cicero. You consider this a rational lapse
>> on their parts?
> Yes.  (And I would guess that many of the slaves probably didn't think 
> slavery was "perfectly natural.")

Au contraire. Prior to the last five or six
hundred years, there were only a few people
who had much sympathy at all for slaves, (I
mean beyond the natural human empathy we all
have for some of those not as well off), and
vanishly few who looked at it as immoral.
Instead, people tended to look at slavery the
way we look at poverty, only the most radical
of us believing that for the 20th century,
for example, it was a truly evil and
malignant "institution".

> Thomas Jefferson also considered slavery to be natural (at least, he 
> certainly used free labor to his advantage to get "ahead"), But Thomas 
> Paine, a contemporary of Jefferson's, did not.  I consider Thomas Paine 
> smarter and more rational.

You use "smarter" (as well as "rational") very
idiosyncratically. Thomas Paine was in no way
smarter than TJ. Paine was attuned better to
changing cultural developments, which themselves
reflected, I maintain, increased prosperity.

> If cultural development, as you impute, is what's responsible for people 
> seemingly being more smart and rational, then cultural development lifts 
> up the whole lot of people who get exposed to it, making the "sheeple" 
> smarter and more rational.

What do you mean by smarter? Could (a) IQ tests
(b) Gardner's array of indicators [1] (c) ability
to focus (d) ability to learn quickly, and (e)
capacity for achievement in terms of determination
have anything to do with what you think of as

Or do you mean "agrees with progressive people
like Olga B."?

Because Jefferson, Cicero, and Aristotle were
very, very smart as registered by (a) through (e).

Likewise, what do you mean by "rational"? Do
you mean (A) strongly affected in terms of
behavior by prolonged non-emotional ratiocination,
(B) engaging in careful planning and having good
foresight, (C) usually careful to avoid logical
errors and pitfalls in thinking or reasoning,
(D) consistent and purposeful, and able to
exercise increasingly expert control toward
increasing coherence, adapting to increasing
context of observations?

I would submit that on (A) through (D), you'd
also find Aristotle, Cicero, Newton, Hypatia,
Thomas Aquinas, and even Malcomb X ranking
pretty high, even those dudes and her believed
many things we find bizarre, strange, and at
first glance seemingly crazy today.


[1] Linguistic intelligence, logical-mathematical
intelligence, musical intelligence, bodily-
kinesthetic intelligence, spatial intelligence,
interpersonal intelligence, and intrapersonal

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