Friday, July 15, 2016

Why do we disregard irrationality and irrational actors?

From guest blogger, Charlie.

From my brief exposure to philosophy, the rational actor seems to be the sole subject of discourse. Irrationality is treated at best as a footnote or at worst as a some sort of Lovecraftian horror. It is definitely pervasive, I doubt that any individual would convincingly contend that he has attained a level of cognition rivaling Spock. Irrationality isn’t simply a consequence of human nature but a required aspect of it.

First off let’s visit the definition doldrums and hammer out what exactly rationality and creativity are., such an illustrious source, has seven definitions for rationality; most of which involve the terms ‘reason’ and ‘reasonable’. I want to go a bit further and say that a process is rational if it is a finite sequence of steps that are valid according to some consistent logic. An irrational process is then one that is not rational. Creativity is defined as, “The ability to transcend traditional ideas, rules, patterns, relationships, or the like, and to create meaningful new ideas, forms, methods, interpretations, etc.” (, accessed 7/14/2016).

I would like to present the following argument that irrationality is a required aspect of human nature:

1) No creative process is rational.
2) Creative processes are a required aspect of human nature.
3) Therefore, irrational processes are a required aspect of human nature.

Defense of 1:
If a creative process is rational, then there exists a consistent logic and a finite sequence of steps in that logic that derives this creative process from an existing process. This then requires that this creative process is equivalent to that process (according to the logic whose existence was asserted). But, if this creative process is equivalent to a previous process, it is by definition not new and not creative.

Defense of 2:
This one is pretty easy to defend, humanity without creativity is without the arts and sciences.

If the above argument is correct there is a lot of previous theories that have to be reexamined. Can Virtue Ethics withstand scrutiny if its virtuosic individuals need to be irrational? Surely a virtuosic individual needs to be creative. Given the necessity of irrationality doesn’t this directly conflict with The Kantian Perspective? How does an Objectivist evaluate the actions of an irrational actor?


Patrick said...

Hi Charlie,

First I applaud you on the creativity of your argument. Pun intended, but also in entire honesty I think this is a very clever argument. The defenses of the two premises is also strong. The only comment I would like to make is irrationally a constant part of human nature. Of course humans tend to make decisions that are not logical, but most humans act in their best interest the vast majority of circumstances. I think both a Deontologist and Virtue Ethics supporter would claim that humans are rationale for the majority of the time. Furthermore, I believe a virtue ethic supporter could argue that creativity is not a virtue. I think they would bite the bullet and counter with the bravery to act in a new way would be a virtue.

Alex Sorensen said...

Hi Charlie,

I'd like to try to poke a hole in your defense of premise 1. You defined rationality earlier in your post as "a process that has a finite sequence of steps that are valid according to some consistent logic". You then go on to say in your defense of 1 that if a creative process is rational then it must come from an existing process and therefore is somehow equal to that existing process and therefore not creative at all. I contend that by your definition of creativity, that I or anyone else could, with a series of rational steps that are "valid according to some consistent logic", come to some new and creative finish line that no one else has ever thought of. I'm basically saying that I think premise 1 is false and that with a sequence of rational steps I could come to a new and creative conclusion that no one else has ever come to, therefore making a creative process rational (because it followed a sequence of rational steps). What do you think?