Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Reasonable, Rational, Elon Musk

I ran into this wonderful quote from Benjamin Franklin;
"So convenient a thing it is to be a reasonable creature, since it enables one to find or make a reason for every thing one has a mind to do."
Reason and rationality are bosom buddies.

There are a lot of quotes that essentially say "Man is not a rational animal, but rather a RATIONALIZING animal". Jonathan Haidt covers this extremely well in his book "The Righteous Mind". He uses an excellent elephant and rider for conscious/unconscious brain that explains an important part of our nature very well.

I love this quote from Blaise Pascal: 
"There are two kinds of people one can call reasonable: those who serve God with all their heart because they know him, and those who seek him with all their heart because they do not know him."

We all have our own "god" -- that which we perceive to be the highest good. Wealth, fame, sexual gratification, family, true love, winning the Super Bowl, etc . 

Realizing what our god really is can be quite difficult. I was a Christian for a long time before I realized that while I claimed (and believed) that I worshipped the one true God, my life showed that career, security, and money were really my god. 

Fortunately, even though I had the mistaken idea I had found him, he found me by Grace.

I throw this one in from Bertrand Russell, because I think it is a good bookend to the Franklin quote I started with. 

“It has been said that man is a rational animal. All my life I have been searching for evidence which could support this.”
― Bertrand Russell

For each of us,  reason and rational are something we think we know when we see it. Like Potter Stewart in Jacobellis vs Ohio, 

“I have reached the conclusion . . . that under the First and Fourteenth Amendments criminal laws in this area are constitutionally limited to hard-core pornography. I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description; and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it, and the motion picture involved in this case is not that.”

For those who believe that science can answer everything, please show me an algorithm that could be used to define "hard core pornography", or admit that it is "in the eye of the beholder", therefore, subjective rather than objective. 

The reason I went off on this little excursion is because I find many people in life and especially on Twitter or other media, declaring that some opinion/person is "unreasonable, irrational, etc". Like most labels ... "that is a conspiracy theory", "that is crazy", etc, such labels don't move our understanding of whatever issue is being discussed forward. 

The Socratic method is much more productive. 

Can you tell me a little more about why you believe that? 

Well ... not always. 

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