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28 January 2008


Michael & Destre

I like your point about how a set of beliefs we may construe as rational may affect the future rationality of behaviour. Namely, your point that...

(3) Acting rationally at time X may preclude the ability to act entirely rationally at a later time Y.

QUESTION 1: At the beginning of your post, are you suggesting that an analysis of rationality applies only to stotchastic events? Thus refusing an analysis that looks at a diachronic conception of rationality; that is, our behaviour over time.

I have a genuine worry, and this instance pervades all of our daily life. What if you have an goal, or project, that is conflicting with another end? Here I'm asking two questions

1. How do we order our preferences? (perhaps an easily dismissable question by 'we choose the highest preference')

2. How do we deliberate when we are emotionally affected?

(Zangwill, 2007, refers to accidie, depression and listlessness as things that impact on 'otherwise' rational or normal behaviour of a person.)

Furthermore, if I were, say at a situation, where I was angered, by say, my brother cheating on my partner; I am angered by his indiscretion and that of my lover, but also, my love for them both should tell me that I shouldn't harm them (because they are important relations to me). Overwhelmed by anger, I injure them both. Is this rational?

A historical example: Plato gives an example of a man who is thirsty in a desert, and finds a dirty well; does he drink the water to prevent his death and quench his unbearable thirst? Or does he not drink the water to prevent poisoning? (The answer isn't important for plato; but it showed that the conflict in preference-ordering demonstrates a disjunction between two kinds of reasoning - perhaps a justification for the emotion/reason disitnction that many people hold).

Its a very interesting issue about what motivates us in terms of the kind of reasons we apply.

These are all difficult issues.

Destre (and Michael)

Atheist and Secular Society

I too have a historical example: Aristotle mentions a man who suffers from really bad diarrhea. He finds a dirty toilet at the main station, but sees there are plenty of hookworms in the bowl. What does he do, crap his pants or risk having worms crawl up where the sun don't shine? (The answer isn't important for Aristotle, but very much so for me, due to personal issues)

Barnaby Dawson

I'm highlighting here that there are problems inherent in trying to define rational behaviour over a period of time. I'm not arguing here that is cannot be done.

There are many different types of decision procedure and it occurs to me that ones based on a list of rules in a prefference order may not turn out to be the most useful. I don't have a more helpful answer to question 2 part 1.

2 part 2 is an empirical question to which I don't have the answer.

As to whether rage can be rational there are three important points to consider:

1) If you did not become angry might this allow people to take advantage of you in future?

2) What is the relative strength of your emotions? If you choose my account (B) of rationality then this becomes important.

3) If you could decide whether to behave entirely rationally during your life (at birth say) would you choose absolute rationality?

In your actual question its difficult to see an account of rationality that would regard this particular behaviour as rational. Its not even a sensible thing to bind yourself to do. If the anger was directed at people you did not love then it would be a harder question.

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