[ExI] What is Rational?

Uni Outsource nanite1018 at gmail.com
Wed Aug 11 04:24:24 UTC 2010

> I would say that the basic human drives tend to corrupt rational
> thinking. And this is often a good thing! Humans usually have to
> operate in an environment where they don't have sufficient information
> to make the 'best' decision. To avoid a collapse into helpless
> indecision, humans have evolved emotions which force a decision to be
> made.

> BillK

Boy, its been a while since I posted here, but this topic compelled me to
(I'm passionate about it).

Rationality is not some floating abstraction. Rationality is, fundamentally,
applying reason to your context (all information, and the objective
conditions) to reach the best decision by certain criteria. For beings like
humans, the only purpose that using reason can have is to further one's life
in some way. Humans must think in order to survive and thrive (civilization
is built upon our ability to reason about things). So, what criteria must we
use when applying the rules of logic? Well, the furtherance of our lives of
course, physically, mentally, and socially. Physically, in terms of our
health and length of life. Mentally, in terms of our desire to live and our
enjoyment of life. And socially, in having a society which allows us to
live. So being rational, for a human being, is all about using reason to
make our lives better.

Humans have finite time and information, therefore in every problem we face
we will have to settle for a non-ideal answer (that is, something less than
the answer we would arrive at with perfect knowledge and infinite
time/resources). Doing so, for example by simply picking what seems to be
the best answer because there is no more time to think about it, is not
being irrational. It is being perfectly rational. It would be blatantly
irrational to stand in Publix for 10 hours, tablet pc out, researching all
the academic research on the effect on health of various brands of peanut
butter, building spreadsheets with cost-benefit analyses, etc. just so you
can go home and eat a fluffernutter sandwich for what was originally going
to be lunch, but would now at best be a late-night snack. That's not just
irrational, it's bonkers. Indeed, outside the context of a simple game (like
checkers, perhaps), the idealist standard of rationality, based on perfect
knowledge and resources sufficient to track the entire range of possible
consequences of an action, is impossible to achieve. No being will ever have
perfect knowledge or infinite resources, and so no being can be perfect, in
the sense of never making a non-ideal decision. But that doesn't mean that
no being can be rational. Rationality isn't about perfection, it is about
making the best decision to further one's life given all conditions,
including concerns of time and relative importance to other goals, etc.

In short, Spock standing there pondering the question of which direction is
the best way to jump out of the way of a Gorn trying to bite his head off is
not being rational, it's being stupid.

Joshua Job
nanite1018 at gmail.com
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