Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Rationality - What and Why

Does reasoning and thinking provide the rightful solution ? Is rationality absolute ? Can we depend upon rationality to guide our morals and ethics and out motivations? To gain an insight into the matter we need to define rationality first and distinguish it from reasonableness.

An act would be called rational, if for that one has reasons to do what he/she is doing. It involves the basic tendency of practicability, as its core and chooses what should be done at a moment based on the reason and environment.

Reasonableness on the other hand is based solely on reasons, it doesn't allow the consideration of other factors towards making choice. It could be very well be the case that a person has reasons to do things, but he rationally chooses that one which maximize the effects on its environment.

From the above lines it seems, rationality is the ultimate panacea to guide our moral choices. Mistakenly so , however. Rationality, no doubt is the ultimate tool for providing the basis for choices made, yet, there are numerable moments ,when due to the circumstances, the scope of rationality is reduced to exigency. A person's choices might be so limited that he could no longer afford to apply rational thoughts but rather accept what he sees as the only possibility left.
This begets the question, why we should be looking up to rationality then if it doesn't work on several occasions primarily due to the limitation of options that it faces. And , the only reason I could possibly find is that if we are to wait , and keep waiting forever, for, a one for all solution, its never going to come. We are not looking for a perfect system or institution but rather such means of understanding and thoughts which serves to reduce our mistaken choices and rationality does handle them well on many occasions.

An anecdote from a Bollywood Movie, Life in a Metro will help me put my point. Irfan Khan asks her self conserved girl friend to open herself to the world, to which she expresses her apprehensions. On which Irfan says, "A friend of mine bought a car but he didn't take it out on a single day, planning to take it out the day all the traffic signals are green".

We don't intent to have all green signals by using rationality, but rather a free ride with stops at red signals. There is nothing wrong with stopping on signals. We share our world with others and in this respect we at times have to stop, but rationality shall be a guide to help move and choose the roads judiciously with lesser signals or may be no signals at all.

The next point to consider is , what if we are wrong? What if what we think right isn't actually so? What if we have been deluded by our positional objectivity into certain line of thought? One way I could think is to read a lot, write a lot, analyze oneself, putting ourselves in others shoes etc. But, in order to be totally impartial we need an impartial observer, who could give his opining standing from outside. Its not necessarily true that the point he makes would be independent of any positional objectivity , yet its rather important that the comment would help us identify the point of view present. How could we be rational about it? Being impartial and practical we need an outside observer's comments to look into our line of thinking. It would help clarify our thoughts.

So, lets all be rational, but not rational fools.

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