About Rationally Speaking
Rationally Speaking is a blog maintained by Prof. Massimo Pigliucci, a philosopher at the City University of New York. The blog reflects the Enlightenment figure Marquis de Condorcet's idea of what a public intellectual (yes, we know, that's such a bad word) ought to be: someone who devotes himself to "the tracking down of prejudices in the hiding places where priests, the schools, the government, and all long-established institutions had gathered and protected them." You're welcome. Please notice that the contents of this blog can be reprinted under the standard Creative Commons license.
Wednesday, December 02, 2009
Podcast Teaser: Why rationality?
For our inaugural episode, we’re going to kick things off by asking: Why is “speaking rationally” a worthwhile goal, anyway? It’s not self-evident, at least not to many people. Human beings certainly don’t seem made for it. Aristotle may have famously dubbed us “the rational animal,” but cognitive science tells a different story, with plenty of evidence that our brains blithely flout logic all the time and are excellent at rationalizing our irrational decisions after the fact.
So why fight our irrational natures? After all, some people argue that irrationality can make us happier, at least in certain situations. There’s also a widespread attitude that even if irrationality has some negative consequences, it’s nevertheless inextricably linked to the best parts of our humanity: love, passion, and creativity. From this standpoint, “rational” is synonymous with “cold, soulless, dispassionate” — in other words, Vulcan.
What do you think — are reason and emotion at odds? Is there a downside to being rational, and if so, is it necessarily outweighed by the upside? And even if you personally choose to strive for rationality, should you try to make other people more rational as well? What if their irrationality makes them happy?
Leave your thoughts below, and we’ll pick the most interesting comments to discuss in Episode #1 of Rationally Speaking: The Podcast!