Defining Reason and Rationality

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Reply Thu 10 Dec, 2009 12:28 am
These words are bandied about pretty regularly, but what do we really mean by these terms? And how subjectively are they applied? Who determines what is rational or reasonable? Are these words ever the bluff of prejudice? Are we capable of pure "rationality"?
 
Kroni
 
Reply Thu 10 Dec, 2009 03:50 am
@Reconstructo,
The definitions are:
REASON: think, consider logically; support a claim with reasons, justify by giving reasons; argue, claim
RATIONALITY: quality of being intelligent, sensibleness

These are from Babylon, and it's interesting that they choose to define the word reason by using the word reason. I think we all have an intuitive idea of what these words mean. It is weighing the expected results of an action based on past trends and patterns to predict outcomes in order to choose the most preferrable one. I suppose when you really get down to it, we don't know anything for certain. We do have logical rules, however. We give a certain weight to these rules because they have never been shown to be broken. These rules are the guidelines for which we make these outcome predictions.
Really, the best definition I can give for reason and rational is "using information we perceive to be true in order to perceive more things to be true."
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Thu 10 Dec, 2009 06:48 am
@Kroni,
Kroni;109764 wrote:

Really, the best definition I can give for reason and rational is "using information we perceive to be true in order to perceive more things to be true."


Interesting, since logic is often defined as "the science of inference" and that is exactly what inference is. Using what you know to know what you did not know. So, I infer from the information that there is snow on the ground this morning, and there was no snow on the ground last night, that it snowed overnight while I was asleep. David Hume believed that the question of whether animals were rational depended on whether animals could draw inferences, and to what extent they could.
 
Reconstructo
 
Reply Thu 10 Dec, 2009 04:14 pm
@Kroni,
Kroni;109764 wrote:
The definitions are:
REASON: think, consider logically; support a claim with reasons, justify by giving reasons; argue, claim
RATIONALITY: quality of being intelligent, sensibleness

These are from Babylon, and it's interesting that they choose to define the word reason by using the word reason. I think we all have an intuitive idea of what these words mean. It is weighing the expected results of an action based on past trends and patterns to predict outcomes in order to choose the most preferrable one. I suppose when you really get down to it, we don't know anything for certain. We do have logical rules, however. We give a certain weight to these rules because they have never been shown to be broken. These rules are the guidelines for which we make these outcome predictions.
Really, the best definition I can give for reason and rational is "using information we perceive to be true in order to perceive more things to be true."



I think that's a pretty fair beginning for this discussion. I note that you use the word "intuitive," which I agree with. I don't see how reason can be founded upon itself. I think the word is quite complex. I appreciate your input on it.

In the French Revolution, if I remember correctly, the made a religion out of the Goddess Reason. It was also a keyword of the Enlightenment. I think it could also be a word that is contrasted to faith. But I doubt that man lives without faith in some method or concept or another. So perhaps faith in reason is similar to judging for one's self? And this connects it to democracy, and the abolition of social class. Further problems arise when we define the "self," for this "self" is immersed in a language and a culture.

Thanks for joining in the conversation.
 
Reconstructo
 
Reply Fri 11 Dec, 2009 01:57 am
@Reconstructo,
Interesting Quote from Wiki, that touches upon my questions...

Quality of Rationality

It is believed by some philosophers (notably A.C. Grayling) and experts, that a good rationale must be independent of emotions, personal feelings or any kind of instincts. Any process of evaluation or analysis, that may be called rational, is expected to be highly objective, logical and "mechanical". If these minimum requirements are not satisfied i.e. if a person has been, even slightly, influenced by personal emotions, feelings, instincts or culturally specific, moral codes and norms, then the analysis may be termed irrational, due to the injection of subjective bias.
It is quite evident from modern cognitive science and neuroscience, studying the role of emotion in mental function (including topics ranging from flashes of scientific insight to making future plans), that no human has ever satisfied this criterion, except perhaps a complete psychopath with a massively damaged amygdala. Thus, such an idealized form of rationality is best exemplified by computers, and not people. However, scholars may productively appeal to the idealization as a point of reference.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Fri 11 Dec, 2009 07:18 am
@Reconstructo,
Reconstructo;110073 wrote:
Interesting Quote from Wiki, that touches upon my questions...

Quality of Rationality

It is believed by some philosophers (notably A.C. Grayling) and experts, that a good rationale must be independent of emotions, personal feelings or any kind of instincts. Any process of evaluation or analysis, that may be called rational, is expected to be highly objective, logical and "mechanical". If these minimum requirements are not satisfied i.e. if a person has been, even slightly, influenced by personal emotions, feelings, instincts or culturally specific, moral codes and norms, then the analysis may be termed irrational, due to the injection of subjective bias.
It is quite evident from modern cognitive science and neuroscience, studying the role of emotion in mental function (including topics ranging from flashes of scientific insight to making future plans), that no human has ever satisfied this criterion, except perhaps a complete psychopath with a massively damaged amygdala. Thus, such an idealized form of rationality is best exemplified by computers, and not people. However, scholars may productively appeal to the idealization as a point of reference.


To say that nothing can be completely "independent of emotions, personal feelings or any kind of instincts. Any process of evaluation or analysis" is no objection to that as a criterion of objectivity. I am sure Grayling knew that. That criterion would be a standard of objectivity and one could be more or less objective in relation to that standard. Nothing can be ideally straight either. But somethings are a lot straighter than others.
 
Reconstructo
 
Reply Fri 11 Dec, 2009 04:31 pm
@Reconstructo,
I agree: rationality is an ideal. I don't want to destroy this ideal by any means.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Fri 11 Dec, 2009 07:07 pm
@Reconstructo,
Reconstructo;110333 wrote:
I agree: rationality is an ideal. I don't want to destroy this ideal by any means.


Rationality is not an ideal. But perfect rationality is an ideal. Just as straightness is not an ideal (many things are straight) but perfect straightness is an ideal.
 
Reconstructo
 
Reply Fri 11 Dec, 2009 07:20 pm
@Reconstructo,
I think it's fair to say that "rationality is an ideal." Of course the word is often used for commendation of those we find persuasive....
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Fri 11 Dec, 2009 07:28 pm
@Reconstructo,
Reconstructo;110374 wrote:
I think it's fair to say that "rationality is an ideal." Of course the word is often used for commendation of those we find persuasive....


Then is it fair to say that ideal rationality is an ideal. We are unlikely to call people who are unpersuasive rational. But we might. We might find, for example, someone who argued that God exists, rational, but quite unpersuasive. And we might find that someone was persuasive, but irrational.
 
Reconstructo
 
Reply Fri 11 Dec, 2009 07:34 pm
@Reconstructo,
I see what you mean. But this thread is about the definition of "rationality." I feel that rationality, for most, means persuading with and being persuaded by an ideal sort of persuasiveness, an ideal rhetoric. Whereas "rhetoric" used in the pejorative sense is used as an antonym for "rationality."

I think a spectrum view is preferable to a binary view. Some persuasion is more or less ideal in its means of persuasion according to our taste.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Fri 11 Dec, 2009 07:39 pm
@Reconstructo,
Reconstructo;110382 wrote:
I see what you mean. But this thread is about the definition of "rationality." I feel that rationality, for most, means persuading with and being persuaded by an ideal sort of persuasiveness, an ideal rhetoric. Whereas "rhetoric" used in the pejorative sense is used as an antonym for "rationality."

I think a spectrum view is preferable to a binary view. Some persuasion is more or less ideal in its means of persuasion according to our taste.


There is nothing irrational about the Ontological argument for God. But Aquinas rejected it because he found it unpersuasive. (A terrible reason, I might add).
 
Reconstructo
 
Reply Fri 11 Dec, 2009 07:47 pm
@Reconstructo,
For me, rationality is not a separate thing than persuasion. It's a form of persuasion. A person can lay out their propositions and conclusions and still be doubted, for humans don't for the most part live on propositions and conclusions. You're quite welcome to your use of the word, of course, but for me it's too narrow of a use. I strive toward a more holistic understanding of human thought and behavior.

I do see what you mean though. I assure you. And I respect your use of the term.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Fri 11 Dec, 2009 07:51 pm
@Reconstructo,
Reconstructo;110392 wrote:
For me, rationality is not a separate thing than persuasion. It's a form of persuasion. A person can lay out their propositions and conclusions and still be doubted, for humans don't for the most part live on propositions and conclusions. You're quite welcome to your use of the word, of course, but for me it's too narrow of a use. I strive toward a more holistic understanding of human thought and behavior.

I do see what you mean though. I assure you. And I respect your use of the term.


As Samuel Johnson once said to someone with whom he was having a discussion: "I can give you an argument, but I cannot give you understanding".
 
Reconstructo
 
Reply Fri 11 Dec, 2009 07:52 pm
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;110394 wrote:
As Samuel Johnson once said to someone with whom he was having a discussion: "I can give you an argument, but I cannot give you understanding".



It's a great quote. Samuel Johnson is a great man, even if kicking that rock didn't mean as much as he thought it did.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Fri 11 Dec, 2009 07:53 pm
@Reconstructo,
Reconstructo;110395 wrote:
It's a great quote. Samuel Johnson is a great man, even if kicking that rock didn't mean as much as he thought it did.


I think it meant a good deal.
 
Reconstructo
 
Reply Fri 11 Dec, 2009 07:58 pm
@Reconstructo,
Idealism isn't my bag but rocks can be imaginary. I think it's human social interaction that makes idealism seem absurd. That we all "imagine" the same thing implies a trans-subjective "cause" of such imaginations.....

We can all kick rocks in our dreams, can't we?
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Fri 11 Dec, 2009 08:02 pm
@Reconstructo,
Reconstructo;110402 wrote:
Idealism isn't my bag but rocks can be imaginary. I think it's human social interaction that makes idealism seem absurd. That we all "imagine" the same thing implies a trans-subjective "cause" of such imaginations.....

We can all kick rocks in our dreams, can't we?


There are no imaginary rocks. To say that a rock is imaginary is not like saying that a rock is very large. Being imaginary is not a property of anything. There are not two kinds of rocks: imaginary rocks and real rocks. We dream we kick rocks. We do not kick rocks in our dreams.
 
Reconstructo
 
Reply Fri 11 Dec, 2009 08:05 pm
@Reconstructo,
Whatever you like, bro. But it's pretty obvious what I meant.
 
Reconstructo
 
Reply Fri 18 Dec, 2009 04:21 am
@Reconstructo,
We use reason as the master-word. Yet no one is eager to define it.
 
 

 
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