[FoRK] Lion, rationality, reason, and seriousness

Lorin Rivers <lrivers at gmail.com> on Mon May 7 15:37:24 PDT 2007

I find, more and more, that people do not make decisions about
ANYTHING rationally and that it's a HUGE mistake to confuse "common
sense" and reason. Further, much like people's perception of their
driving skills (80% believe they're "above average"), people's
preconceptions, blind spots and prejudices === their view of what is
rational, reasonable, and so on.

Stumbling Upon Happiness explores this in some detail and I recommend it highly.

On 5/4/07, Jeff Bone <jbone at place.org> wrote:
> Lion:
> 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
> over time.
> 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!
> Cheers,
> jb
> 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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