Saturday, May 29, 2010

What is Reason and Rationality?

Reason is that "intellectual faculty that adopts actions to ends," from Anglo-Fr. resoun, O.Fr. raison, from L. rationem (nom. ratio)…

"Rationality" does come from "ratus, pp. of reri "to reckon, think," from PIE base *rei- "to reason, count" (cf. O.E. rædan "to advise; see read). (O.Fr. raisonable, from L. rationabilis" [ibid]

So where is the "ratio"? It is in the "correspondence theory", of which almost all western philosophers have subscribed, from Plato AND Aristotle (!) right into the 21st century. Relativists, however, go by the coherence theory, or some other epistemological method of straying from this ratio.

The "ratio" is the ratio of correct premises, correct inductions, and correct deductions to the state of objective reality. Objectivism is the modern philosophy based, almost word for word, on this 19th century origination: "in philosophical sense of "the doctrine that knowledge is based on objective reality," first attested 1854; from objective + -ism."…

What is it that determines this ratio; in other words, who is to say what "objective reality" is? Actually, reality does a good job of telling us what it is. In the Baconian sense that "Nature, to be commanded, must be obeyed," reality tells us what it is that must be obeyed to be commanded; and it is in this obeying that we find out who has the "intellectual faculty that adopts actions to ends,"; and we discover in that faculty just what ends are "natural". It comes down to metaphysics:

"Metaphysics is the foundation of philosophy. Without an explanation or an interpretation of the world around us, we would be helpless to deal with reality. We could not feed ourselves, or act to preserve our lives. The degree to which our metaphysical worldview is correct is the degree to which we are able to comprehend the world, and act accordingly. Without this firm foundation, all knowledge becomes suspect. Any flaw in our view of reality will make it more difficult to live."…

What causes a person to act rationally? Ayn Rand stated that it is volitionally up to each individual to decide whether to follow reason, or to what degree, since it is a "faculty" of mind, will, and epistemological strength.

If a person makes a terrible mistake--let's say, she forgets her baby is in the back seat of a car and it dies of heat exhaustion while she is under anesthesia at the dentist's office, it could be argued whether or not her forgetfulness was rational. But rational people do make such mistakes, and she did not choose to volitionally act against her faculty of reason; for whatever cause, she just forgot the baby. Some people have to take a mild sedative 1/2 hour before going to the dentist. Others have to take an anti-biotic and anti-biotics have been known to cause irrational behavior.

But unfortunately for the baby (and the family) forgetfulness is not necessarily irrationality. Irrationality must be said to be the PURPOSEFUL neglect of "adopting actions to ends," not the human frailty of forgetfulness (or other frailties of mind and character) when we are placed in stressful situations.

Getting stoned and forgetting the baby would be purposeful neglect, i.e., irrationality, because it serves no good ends to use alcohol or drugs when attending a baby. In that case there is no correspondence of actions or ends, to objective reality.

The degree to which that mother's metaphysical worldview is correct is the degree to which she is able to comprehend that her world has a baby in it, and act accordingly.

Other references:


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