[FoRK] Lion, rationality, reason, and seriousness
<jbone at place.org> on
Fri May 4 20:56:58 PDT 2007
A hopefully succinct, serious, non-flip, and semantically "chewy"
response to several issues you seem to be wresting with. (And btw,
bravo for wresting with them in the first place.)
"Rationality" and the related concept of "reason" are both slippery
eels. I think you and I will agree on that. The key insight, if
any, that I have to offer on this fundamental problem is this: both
terms, both concepts, can *only* be understood in (each) one of two
contexts: macro and micro. And each concept, in each context, has a
different meaning, interpretation, analysis, theory...
It's unproductive to try to define, much less argue, either concept
in a general sense. "Rationality" can be defined precisely, even
objectively, in terms of the actual outcome of a single individual's
behavior --- if you know the individual's priors, i.e. preferences,
beliefs, and assumptions. (Even then it's difficult, as preferences
etc. are so slippery and unquantifiable in themselves.) In the
larger sense, "rationality" can *provably* never be absolutely
quantified --- cf. Arrow. But making a few (individually reasonable)
assumptions like Pareto optimality, finiteness (or lack thereof, or
uncertainty thereof) of iteration of PD-like games, etc., then one
can make macro assessments of the rationality of a group's behavior
Economics, my man. It's not the dismal science --- indeed, it's the
only precise science that indeed admits the reality of human behavior.
Know it. Live it. Love it!
PS - as for seriousness --- it's overrated. A certain amount of
levity is necessary to allow the meatware to contemplate the totally
asinine behaviour of human beings on a regular basis, much less try
to build models of it!
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