virus: Rationality

Reed Konsler (
Thu, 27 Feb 1997 10:41:27 -0500

Alex Williams:

>> I would contend that this behaviour only /appears/ irrational to us,
>> not necessarily /is/ irrational/. Like standing on one's hind legs
>> and squeaking when a predator is around, it has clearly negavive
>> individual impact, but there may be some rationale that we've either
>> not come to or not privy to in regards to the behaviour. This is why
>> I have that insistance on the rationality of things being linked to
>> our possession of a model for their execution.

David McFadzean:

>Fair enough. So can any behaviour be said to be irrational, or is it
>always relative and contextual? If the former, can you provide an example?

This is an idea paraprased from Dennett's "The Intentional Stance":

Rationality is a judgement. Based upon the "rules" of logic (a complex
set) one compares an individual's behavior to their environment. If the
obeys the rules in context--if the behavior is "appropriate" to the
the person is described as rational.

Behaviors can be more or less rational just as they can be more or less
to the situation.

In the abstract we can imagine behaviors appropriate to no concieveable world.
Insanity, defined as such, is again a judgement. Essentially we are admitting a
limit to our imagination.

Sources of ambiguity and contention in this definition:

1) The "rules" or logic.
2) Perception of the behavior.
3) Perception of the environment.

Which really is just about everything, isn't it? I guess the point I want
to make is that rationality is, like obsenity, something we "see" without
defining. In attempting
to define it perhaps we will "see" better, or at least discover the edges
of our blind
spots...but we aren't ever going to agree on a definition.


Reed Konsler