According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, rational means based on logic or reason. An expanded definition of rationality considers two elements: that which is true and that which should be done. Rationality is defined in terms of evidence and the subjective attainment of goals. That is to mean that in order for an individual’s beliefs to be considered rational, the beliefs must be consistent with the available evidence. In addition, rational actions are those which help individuals to obtain their goals. There are different characteristics of rational thought including efficient regulation of behavior, reflectivity, realistic prioritization of goals, judicious decision making and adaptive behavior (Stanovich 15).
Aristotle is one of the early philosophers who thought man to be rational (Stich 115). However, in this essay I will argue that man is irrational. There are two main issues that contribute to the irrational behavior of man, a content problem and processing problem. The processing problem is mainly related to the manner in which the human brain processes new and incoming information. There are different instances when one is confronted with challenges and difficult situations. In such a case, the human brain works to choose the option that requires the least processing power. This happens even though there are other options with greater power. However, such options are seldom considered because they may require more resources in terms of concentration time and cognitive abilities. The other source of irrationality of man is the content problem. This occurs especially when humans do not have the specific knowledge of thinking and acting rationally. It is important to note that there are resources required in terms of cognitive tools, strategies and tools for one to act rationally. These resources must be retrieved from the human memory. In most instances, humans lack knowledge in areas that are important to rational thought and this creates a gap. This gap that may be referred to as mindware gap is not taught in schools and universities. This means that an individual may graduate from university but lack the knowledge of rational thinking when confronted with different situations.
There are many situations that individuals may be confronted with and these originate from different disciplines and issues making it almost impossible to inculcate the concept of rational thought to all students at all times. In addition, there are instances when one acquires mindware contamination. This happens during interaction with other people and may undermine an individual’s goal to act in a rational manner. Mindware contamination may also result in some people changing their personality and attitudes. For example, interacting with smokers may make one start engaging in the same act even though he was not practicing this before. The implication of this is that irrationality makes people take some traits which they did not have and did not believe in.
It is important to note that there are different tests that have been developed to assess rational thinking skills in individuals. This means that rational thinking is a concept that can be learned and will take time before all humans on the face of the earth learn the art of rational thinking. At the moment, many people from different fields rely on irrational thinking to make their decisions. This explains why many programs designed by the government and the private sector to improve the health and welfare of the poor people have not been successful. Rational thought has not been deployed in implementation of these programs thereby undermining their success.
- Stanovich, Keith E. What Intelligence Test Miss: The Psychology of Rational Thought. Yale
University Press, 2009.
- Stich, Stephen P. “Could Man Be an Irrational Animal? Some Notes on the Epistemology of
Rationality.” Synthese, vol. 64, no. 1, 1985, pp. 115-135.