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Irrational Conclusions

 
Brick Bungalow
 
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Brick Bungalow
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27 September 2019 23:30
 
Jb8989 - 27 September 2019 07:57 PM

So facts are conclusions, so to speak? Methods at arriving at facts are rational or irrational?

I don’t think that it’s actually possible to ” be reasonable.” A person can only behave or think reasonably given his or her circumstances in any given situation. And circumstances are relative. Context has some psychological and cultural universalities, but perceptually these vary drastically.

Not exactly. I think there is an important conceptual and practical distinction between a fact and a conclusion. Hopefully this is relevant and not pedantic.
Facts are true by definition. (I hope we can table post modern objections for the time being)
Conclusions frequently are not.
Facts are, I think universal.
Conclusions are personal.
I would visualize a fact as an accurate mark on a map. Whereas a conclusion is simply the direction I’m currently facing. Hopefully they converge.

But I agree with the second part. People are not reasonable or unreasonable. Just as conclusions are not rational or irrational. What we are describing isn’t the subject but rather the active verb.

I think part of the problem is too much comfort with colloquial usage. People say ‘irrational’ when what they really mean is stupid. Or malicious. Or something else. It’s become a euphemism at the cost of its propositional content.

To me rational means: Consistent with the laws of logic and axioms of reason. Efficient in the distribution of resources. Communicable in unambiguous terms. And suited to a respective task or destination. I think that these descriptions can only be applied to actions, behaviors and complex concepts.

 

 
icehorse
 
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28 September 2019 08:34
 

An acknowledgement (which is usually implicit) of context and core values is necessary to even ask the question. E.g., to a Jain, everyone on this thread is violent.

 
 
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28 September 2019 18:20
 
icehorse - 28 September 2019 08:34 AM

An acknowledgement (which is usually implicit) of context and core values is necessary to even ask the question. E.g., to a Jain, everyone on this thread is violent.

  I agree that all propositions are value laden and dependent. I don’t think everything is culturally relative. I think we can have value consensus across cultural boundaries… Indeed we must. I think the greater source of signal loss is elsewhere.

 
Jb8989
 
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29 September 2019 09:05
 
Brick Bungalow - 27 September 2019 11:30 PM
Jb8989 - 27 September 2019 07:57 PM

So facts are conclusions, so to speak? Methods at arriving at facts are rational or irrational?

I don’t think that it’s actually possible to ” be reasonable.” A person can only behave or think reasonably given his or her circumstances in any given situation. And circumstances are relative. Context has some psychological and cultural universalities, but perceptually these vary drastically.

Not exactly. I think there is an important conceptual and practical distinction between a fact and a conclusion. Hopefully this is relevant and not pedantic.
Facts are true by definition. (I hope we can table post modern objections for the time being)
Conclusions frequently are not.
Facts are, I think universal.
Conclusions are personal.
I would visualize a fact as an accurate mark on a map. Whereas a conclusion is simply the direction I’m currently facing. Hopefully they converge.

 

I think that you’re on to something. I might say that “conclusions” follow conscious analyses. In other words, they follow something like an attempt at an objective assessment of contextualized facts and circumstances. Essentially, there’s a proper procedure one must abide to reach a “conclusion.” In that sense they’re similar to facts because for all intents and purposes “facts” should hold up to scientific scrutiny, which is more of a method than anything else. But then I would say that 90% of what we might consider a “decision” rely on feelings disguised as facts. We’re making something similar to an analysis when we make everyday decisions, but we’re not zooming out objectively most of the time, and nor do we have enough data in any given moment to make an actual informed “conclusion.”

 
 
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29 September 2019 12:05
 
Jb8989 - 29 September 2019 09:05 AM

I think that you’re on to something. I might say that “conclusions” follow conscious analyses. In other words, they follow something like an attempt at an objective assessment of contextualized facts and circumstances. Essentially, there’s a proper procedure one must abide to reach a “conclusion.” In that sense they’re similar to facts because for all intents and purposes “facts” should hold up to scientific scrutiny, which is more of a method than anything else. But then I would say that 90% of what we might consider a “decision” rely on feelings disguised as facts. We’re making something similar to an analysis when we make everyday decisions, but we’re not zooming out objectively most of the time, and nor do we have enough data in any given moment to make an actual informed “conclusion.”

Yes. I think it points to the need for dialog and method. I can distinguish facts from conclusions at the level of concept but I probably cannot distinguish any particular conclusion I hold from a fact… otherwise I would not hold it. For that distinction I rely on other people or upon procedures of error correction.

 
TheAnal_lyticPhilosopher
 
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TheAnal_lyticPhilosopher
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02 October 2019 07:31
 

Why wouldn’t a conclusion inconsistent with either the premises from which it is drawn or other conclusions be “irrational”?  Or starting with premises that lead to conclusions inconsistent with other known conclusions, conclusions determined as sound and well-verified?  To be sure, “irrational” is generally—almost exclusively, even—a term of abuse; folks like to prop up their own views as “rational” and the views of detractors or critics as “irrational” (Sam Harris could be the poster child for this).  But, this normative abuse aside, “irrational” can simply mean “inconsistency”—inconsistency among premises, or inconsistency among established conclusions, or inconsistency where the same set of premises lead to conclusions that are inconsistent with one another. 

As an example of the latter, consider Harris’ positions on profiling.  On the one hand (race and intelligence), he insists the moral implications of the facts (blacks are on average less intelligent than whites) are offset by treating people as individuals, not as members of a group.  On the other hand (profiling Muslims), he says the moral implications of the facts (Muslims on average are more likely to be terrorists) are offset by treating people as members of a group, not as individuals.  So which is it: do we offset the moral implications of group-attributes (blacks on average less intelligent than whites; Muslims on average more likely to be a terrorist) by treating people as members of a group, or as individuals?  Holding to an inconsistency like this is “irrational” if one’s standard of rationally is the consistent application of objective principles.  Why, then, is it morally imperative to treat blacks as individuals but Muslims as members of a group when the same premises of group-attributes relative to outcomes is at work?  In a case like this, one can call a person “irrational” without being normatively abusive, first on the grounds that the positions are inconsistent with one another, though derived from the same set of premises, and second on the grounds that they are inconsistent with the holder’s own definition of “rational”—i.e. the consistent application of objective moral principles.  Harris’ positions on profiling Muslims but not profiling blacks are inconsistent with one another, so on that ground one could call his positions—and perhaps him as well—“irrational.” 

This is not to say that Harris’ two positions cannot be reconciled; perhaps under a different notion of rationality, they can.  But under his professed “rationality” as thinking according to objective principles consistently applied across situations, he appears—to this reader, at least—quite irrational. 

Now, if he were an out-of-the-closet pragmatist who said principles guide judgement that is individually objective, not determine judgement as universally objective, or not…that would be another story.  Under the former notion of principles as guides for individually valid judgement, one can hold quite consistently that it’s ok to profile Muslims in airport screening but not blacks as job applicants.  It’s just that Harris closes himself off to that kind of rationality with his insistence on moral realism and its reliance on the consistent application of objectively valid principles.  How the former would work instead of the latter is, I think, as important as it is interesting.

(By the way, these are Harris’ positions, not mine.  I work from different premises altogether on these issues.)

 
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02 October 2019 18:03
 
TheAnal_lyticPhilosopher - 02 October 2019 07:31 AM

Why wouldn’t a conclusion inconsistent with either the premises from which it is drawn or other conclusions be “irrational”?  Or starting with premises that lead to conclusions inconsistent with other known conclusions, conclusions determined as sound and well-verified?  To be sure, “irrational” is generally—almost exclusively, even—a term of abuse; folks like to prop up their own views as “rational” and the views of detractors or critics as “irrational” (Sam Harris could be the poster child for this).  But, this normative abuse aside, “irrational” can simply mean “inconsistency”—inconsistency among premises, or inconsistency among established conclusions, or inconsistency where the same set of premises lead to conclusions that are inconsistent with one another. 

As an example of the latter, consider Harris’ positions on profiling.  On the one hand (race and intelligence), he insists the moral implications of the facts (blacks are on average less intelligent than whites) are offset by treating people as individuals, not as members of a group.  On the other hand (profiling Muslims), he says the moral implications of the facts (Muslims on average are more likely to be terrorists) are offset by treating people as members of a group, not as individuals.  So which is it: do we offset the moral implications of group-attributes (blacks on average less intelligent than whites; Muslims on average more likely to be a terrorist) by treating people as members of a group, or as individuals?  Holding to an inconsistency like this is “irrational” if one’s standard of rationally is the consistent application of objective principles.  Why, then, is it morally imperative to treat blacks as individuals but Muslims as members of a group when the same premises of group-attributes relative to outcomes is at work?  In a case like this, one can call a person “irrational” without being normatively abusive, first on the grounds that the positions are inconsistent with one another, though derived from the same set of premises, and second on the grounds that they are inconsistent with the holder’s own definition of “rational”—i.e. the consistent application of objective moral principles.  Harris’ positions on profiling Muslims but not profiling blacks are inconsistent with one another, so on that ground one could call his positions—and perhaps him as well—“irrational.” 

This is not to say that Harris’ two positions cannot be reconciled; perhaps under a different notion of rationality, they can.  But under his professed “rationality” as thinking according to objective principles consistently applied across situations, he appears—to this reader, at least—quite irrational. 

Now, if he were an out-of-the-closet pragmatist who said principles guide judgement that is individually objective, not determine judgement as universally objective, or not…that would be another story.  Under the former notion of principles as guides for individually valid judgement, one can hold quite consistently that it’s ok to profile Muslims in airport screening but not blacks as job applicants.  It’s just that Harris closes himself off to that kind of rationality with his insistence on moral realism and its reliance on the consistent application of objectively valid principles.  How the former would work instead of the latter is, I think, as important as it is interesting.

(By the way, these are Harris’ positions, not mine.  I work from different premises altogether on these issues.)

It would. Consistency is key IMO. With any argument, the burden is to produce enough evidence to be persuasive. When done objectively and rationally, you’re persuading your audience of the truth of the matter of the topic at issue. The more poorly argued the body of the argument, or the more poorly spotted the ongoing issues nested throughout your argument, the more irrational the overall structure of your argument becomes. But miss one minor issue, or, side step just one important element, and that doesn’t make your overall argument irrational. It just makes your conclusions less likely to stand up to strict scrutiny.  Like with your samwise example. Although, strictly speaking, terror is a social act while low intelligence is a genetic predisposition. There’s probably a not so unimportant cultural distinction that I’m currently too tired to figure out.

 
 
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02 October 2019 20:05
 
Jb8989 - 02 October 2019 06:03 PM

But miss one minor issue, or, side step just one important element, and that doesn’t make your overall argument irrational. It just makes your conclusions less likely to stand up to strict scrutiny.

But let’s say you purposefully slip a non-rational component into a complex argument so that it’s less likely to be noticed, but you insert it for the purpose of swaying your target’s emotions or making a subliminal suggestion.  That’s not only rational, but clever.  You know what you are doing, and your purpose is to convince someone. You have an end in mind and have carefully planned a method to achieve it. Even if it doesn’t follow the rules of logic, you have charted a path to victory.  You will be hailed as a brilliant orator.  “Rational” is a many-splendored thing.

 
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02 October 2019 21:22
 
TheAnal_lyticPhilosopher - 02 October 2019 07:31 AM

Why wouldn’t a conclusion inconsistent with either the premises from which it is drawn or other conclusions be “irrational”?  Or starting with premises that lead to conclusions inconsistent with other known conclusions, conclusions determined as sound and well-verified?  To be sure, “irrational” is generally—almost exclusively, even—a term of abuse; folks like to prop up their own views as “rational” and the views of detractors or critics as “irrational” (Sam Harris could be the poster child for this).  But, this normative abuse aside, “irrational” can simply mean “inconsistency”—inconsistency among premises, or inconsistency among established conclusions, or inconsistency where the same set of premises lead to conclusions that are inconsistent with one another. 

As an example of the latter, consider Harris’ positions on profiling.  On the one hand (race and intelligence), he insists the moral implications of the facts (blacks are on average less intelligent than whites) are offset by treating people as individuals, not as members of a group.  On the other hand (profiling Muslims), he says the moral implications of the facts (Muslims on average are more likely to be terrorists) are offset by treating people as members of a group, not as individuals.  So which is it: do we offset the moral implications of group-attributes (blacks on average less intelligent than whites; Muslims on average more likely to be a terrorist) by treating people as members of a group, or as individuals?  Holding to an inconsistency like this is “irrational” if one’s standard of rationally is the consistent application of objective principles.  Why, then, is it morally imperative to treat blacks as individuals but Muslims as members of a group when the same premises of group-attributes relative to outcomes is at work?  In a case like this, one can call a person “irrational” without being normatively abusive, first on the grounds that the positions are inconsistent with one another, though derived from the same set of premises, and second on the grounds that they are inconsistent with the holder’s own definition of “rational”—i.e. the consistent application of objective moral principles.  Harris’ positions on profiling Muslims but not profiling blacks are inconsistent with one another, so on that ground one could call his positions—and perhaps him as well—“irrational.” 

This is not to say that Harris’ two positions cannot be reconciled; perhaps under a different notion of rationality, they can.  But under his professed “rationality” as thinking according to objective principles consistently applied across situations, he appears—to this reader, at least—quite irrational. 

Now, if he were an out-of-the-closet pragmatist who said principles guide judgement that is individually objective, not determine judgement as universally objective, or not…that would be another story.  Under the former notion of principles as guides for individually valid judgement, one can hold quite consistently that it’s ok to profile Muslims in airport screening but not blacks as job applicants.  It’s just that Harris closes himself off to that kind of rationality with his insistence on moral realism and its reliance on the consistent application of objectively valid principles.  How the former would work instead of the latter is, I think, as important as it is interesting.

(By the way, these are Harris’ positions, not mine.  I work from different premises altogether on these issues.)

They would. By definition. I tried to concede that in advance. What I’m saying is that the verdict of irrationality relies on the context you describe. In almost every case.

 
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03 October 2019 05:40
 
EN - 02 October 2019 08:05 PM
Jb8989 - 02 October 2019 06:03 PM

But miss one minor issue, or, side step just one important element, and that doesn’t make your overall argument irrational. It just makes your conclusions less likely to stand up to strict scrutiny.

But let’s say you purposefully slip a non-rational component into a complex argument so that it’s less likely to be noticed, but you insert it for the purpose of swaying your target’s emotions or making a subliminal suggestion.  That’s not only rational, but clever.  You know what you are doing, and your purpose is to convince someone. You have an end in mind and have carefully planned a method to achieve it. Even if it doesn’t follow the rules of logic, you have charted a path to victory.  You will be hailed as a brilliant orator.  “Rational” is a many-splendored thing.

Lol no doubt. Style is important. As long as you’re still arguing in good faith, being clever or emotional isn’t irrational. It’s a slippery slope though. Just look at how many assholes rely on style over substance, or tactics over merit.

 
 
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03 October 2019 12:08
 

Jb8989

I reread Harris on profiling in airport screening, and then his exchange with Schneier.  You are right there is a cultural distinction between, say, denying applicants a job and a terrorist committing a terrorist act, but in terms of Sam’s reasoning, this difference is not important, I think.  Instead, what’s important is the logic of Sam’s argument, and what he’s arguing regarding both blacks and Muslims is that the moral implications of a fact need to be mitigated by a behavior, and this behavior needs to be guided by a principle.

Specifically, in the case of blacks, the tendency of employers not to want to hire them because of relatively low intelligence—and remember, according to Harris were are talking about only ~15% of blacks being as intelligent as ~50% of whites—needs to be offset by treating each black person as in individual, ignoring the information correlated with group membership.  In the case of Muslims (or potential Muslims), the possibility that one is a terrorist—an approximately 1 in 80 million chance at the time of their debate—needs to be offset by treating them as members of a group, ignoring their individuality and relying on the information correlated with group membership.  Schneier does a good job of unpacking why Sam’s intuition about profiling in airport screenings is both misguided and counter-productive, and the lack of at attack or even an attempted attack since their debate has proven him right—so far.  My point is 1) that Harris thinks he is reasoning according to some kind of objective principle, not rationalizing his intuition, and 2) that he’s not consistently applying the same principle across the same situations—i.e. predicting outcomes based on the best information available.  In the case of blacks he insists employers don’t use this group-correlated information, but in the case of Muslims he insists airport screeners do use this information, even though the correlation in the former is orders of magnitude stronger than the latter.  So, absent a moral preference for blacks over Muslims, how does one rationalize the inconsistency?  As far as I can tell, the only reason for Sam’s profiling position is his misguided intuition about its effectiveness motivated by his fear of another terrorist attack—something I would call textbook “irrational” in the colloquial sense.

So, Harris is being irrational on grounds of inconsistency in his arguments, and he’s being irrational on the grounds of letting his emotions and intuitions override well-reasoned judgement—all the while convincing himself that his arguments are consistent and that he’s thinking according to objective principles, not his intuitions and fear.  Given his prominent virtue signaling and banner-waving about rationality, this makes him—to my mind—the archetype of the kind of guy you don’t want on your team. 

Brick Bungalow

My mistake.  I thought you were driving a wedge between “irrational” and “inconsistent” with internal contradiction as a necessary condition of irrationality and an unspecified subjective state as a sufficient one.  Looks like another mix up over words cleared up in a quick exchange.

Some definitions of “rational” I throw out there for posterity.

Consistent ordering according to stable preferences (the economic).  Attaining suitable means to maximize desired ends (the pragmatic).  Preferences ordered within available means (a supplement to the pragmatic).  These would be behavioral conditions for rationality

Intellectually “rationality” could be as described above (consistency), but it could also be ‘examined intuitions through consistent reasoning’ (the argumentative theory), with “consistent” specified as ‘conceptual ordering within established knowledge.’  In contrast to this definition one might say ‘valid arguments in support of a position.’  I happen to think the latter is the least interesting concept of “rational” (I’d even go so far as to call it silly), and like no_profundia I would argue that rationality as such is best described as an emergent property of moral and intellectual interaction, not something possessed—as a rule—individually.  While I think individually one should strive to be reasonable, I think rational in the honorific sense has more to do with consensus, conciliation, and collaboration than the exercise of a faculty we might call reason.

[ Edited: 03 October 2019 12:13 by TheAnal_lyticPhilosopher]
 
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03 October 2019 12:38
 

Eh

[ Edited: 03 October 2019 15:10 by Jb8989]
 
 
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03 October 2019 12:54
 
TheAnal_lyticPhilosopher - 03 October 2019 12:08 PM

Jb8989

I reread Harris on profiling in airport screening, and then his exchange with Schneier.  You are right there is a cultural distinction between, say, denying applicants a job and a terrorist committing a terrorist act, but in terms of Sam’s reasoning, this difference is not important, I think.  Instead, what’s important is the logic of Sam’s argument, and what he’s arguing regarding both blacks and Muslims is that the moral implications of a fact need to be mitigated by a behavior, and this behavior needs to be guided by a principle.

Specifically, in the case of blacks, the tendency of employers not to want to hire them because of relatively low intelligence—and remember, according to Harris were are talking about only ~15% of blacks being as intelligent as ~50% of whites—needs to be offset by treating each black person as in individual, ignoring the information correlated with group membership.  In the case of Muslims (or potential Muslims), the possibility that one is a terrorist—an approximately 1 in 80 million chance at the time of their debate—needs to be offset by treating them as members of a group, ignoring their individuality and relying on the information correlated with group membership.  Schneier does a good job of unpacking why Sam’s intuition about profiling in airport screenings is both misguided and counter-productive, and the lack of at attack or even an attempted attack since their debate has proven him right—so far.  My point is 1) that Harris thinks he is reasoning according to some kind of objective principle, not rationalizing his intuition, and 2) that he’s not consistently applying the same principle across the same situations—i.e. predicting outcomes based on the best information available.  In the case of blacks he insists employers don’t use this group-correlated information, but in the case of Muslims he insists airport screeners do use this information, even though the correlation in the former is orders of magnitude stronger than the latter.  So, absent a moral preference for blacks over Muslims, how does one rationalize the inconsistency?  As far as I can tell, the only reason for Sam’s profiling position is his misguided intuition about its effectiveness motivated by his fear of another terrorist attack—something I would call textbook “irrational” in the colloquial sense.

So, Harris is being irrational on grounds of inconsistency in his arguments, and he’s being irrational on the grounds of letting his emotions and intuitions override well-reasoned judgement—all the while convincing himself that his arguments are consistent and that he’s thinking according to objective principles, not his intuitions and fear.  Given his prominent virtue signaling and banner-waving about rationality, this makes him—to my mind—the archetype of the kind of guy you don’t want on your team. 

Brick Bungalow

My mistake.  I thought you were driving a wedge between “irrational” and “inconsistent” with internal contradiction as a necessary condition of irrationality and an unspecified subjective state as a sufficient one.  Looks like another mix up over words cleared up in a quick exchange.

Some definitions of “rational” I throw out there for posterity.

Consistent ordering according to stable preferences (the economic).  Attaining suitable means to maximize desired ends (the pragmatic).  Preferences ordered within available means (a supplement to the pragmatic).  These would be behavioral conditions for rationality

Intellectually “rationality” could be as described above (consistency), but it could also be ‘examined intuitions through consistent reasoning’ (the argumentative theory), with “consistent” specified as ‘conceptual ordering within established knowledge.’  In contrast to this definition one might say ‘valid arguments in support of a position.’  I happen to think the latter is the least interesting concept of “rational” (I’d even go so far as to call it silly), and like no_profundia I would argue that rationality as such is best described as an emergent property of moral and intellectual interaction, not something possessed—as a rule—individually.  While I think individually one should strive to be reasonable, I think rational in the honorific sense has more to do with consensus, conciliation, and collaboration than the exercise of a faculty we might call reason.

No argument from me. I think words like rational and consistent are pretty elastic even in formal usage but we seem fairly close to agreement. What I’m objecting to is the common habit of using terms like this and especially using their antonyms when other words would be a better fit. Ex. Saying irrational when what we really mean is stupid.

Essentially, I want to use the best word even though I concede there is not always a perfect word.

 

 
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04 October 2019 05:58
 

Waging a war of prescriptive definitions is always going to fail unless you limit the scope of your war to an extremely small area.  It is a battle that will literally kill you.

 
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04 October 2019 06:36
 
Brick Bungalow - 03 October 2019 12:54 PM
TheAnal_lyticPhilosopher - 03 October 2019 12:08 PM

Jb8989

I reread Harris on profiling in airport screening, and then his exchange with Schneier.  You are right there is a cultural distinction between, say, denying applicants a job and a terrorist committing a terrorist act, but in terms of Sam’s reasoning, this difference is not important, I think.  Instead, what’s important is the logic of Sam’s argument, and what he’s arguing regarding both blacks and Muslims is that the moral implications of a fact need to be mitigated by a behavior, and this behavior needs to be guided by a principle.

Specifically, in the case of blacks, the tendency of employers not to want to hire them because of relatively low intelligence—and remember, according to Harris were are talking about only ~15% of blacks being as intelligent as ~50% of whites—needs to be offset by treating each black person as in individual, ignoring the information correlated with group membership.  In the case of Muslims (or potential Muslims), the possibility that one is a terrorist—an approximately 1 in 80 million chance at the time of their debate—needs to be offset by treating them as members of a group, ignoring their individuality and relying on the information correlated with group membership.  Schneier does a good job of unpacking why Sam’s intuition about profiling in airport screenings is both misguided and counter-productive, and the lack of at attack or even an attempted attack since their debate has proven him right—so far.  My point is 1) that Harris thinks he is reasoning according to some kind of objective principle, not rationalizing his intuition, and 2) that he’s not consistently applying the same principle across the same situations—i.e. predicting outcomes based on the best information available.  In the case of blacks he insists employers don’t use this group-correlated information, but in the case of Muslims he insists airport screeners do use this information, even though the correlation in the former is orders of magnitude stronger than the latter.  So, absent a moral preference for blacks over Muslims, how does one rationalize the inconsistency?  As far as I can tell, the only reason for Sam’s profiling position is his misguided intuition about its effectiveness motivated by his fear of another terrorist attack—something I would call textbook “irrational” in the colloquial sense.

So, Harris is being irrational on grounds of inconsistency in his arguments, and he’s being irrational on the grounds of letting his emotions and intuitions override well-reasoned judgement—all the while convincing himself that his arguments are consistent and that he’s thinking according to objective principles, not his intuitions and fear.  Given his prominent virtue signaling and banner-waving about rationality, this makes him—to my mind—the archetype of the kind of guy you don’t want on your team. 

Brick Bungalow

My mistake.  I thought you were driving a wedge between “irrational” and “inconsistent” with internal contradiction as a necessary condition of irrationality and an unspecified subjective state as a sufficient one.  Looks like another mix up over words cleared up in a quick exchange.

Some definitions of “rational” I throw out there for posterity.

Consistent ordering according to stable preferences (the economic).  Attaining suitable means to maximize desired ends (the pragmatic).  Preferences ordered within available means (a supplement to the pragmatic).  These would be behavioral conditions for rationality

Intellectually “rationality” could be as described above (consistency), but it could also be ‘examined intuitions through consistent reasoning’ (the argumentative theory), with “consistent” specified as ‘conceptual ordering within established knowledge.’  In contrast to this definition one might say ‘valid arguments in support of a position.’  I happen to think the latter is the least interesting concept of “rational” (I’d even go so far as to call it silly), and like no_profundia I would argue that rationality as such is best described as an emergent property of moral and intellectual interaction, not something possessed—as a rule—individually.  While I think individually one should strive to be reasonable, I think rational in the honorific sense has more to do with consensus, conciliation, and collaboration than the exercise of a faculty we might call reason.

No argument from me. I think words like rational and consistent are pretty elastic even in formal usage but we seem fairly close to agreement. What I’m objecting to is the common habit of using terms like this and especially using their antonyms when other words would be a better fit. Ex. Saying irrational when what we really mean is stupid.

Essentially, I want to use the best word even though I concede there is not always a perfect word.

This, I think, is how not to use the word.  Aside from the self-referentiality problem of two men criticizing the trend of men calling their opponents “daft, delusional, and irrational” calling their opponent daft, delusional and irrational, all the article does is assume different positions using different arguments on issues where reasonable people can diverge.  It’s a textbook case, I think, of using an imperfect word badly.  What they should be saying is Harris is wrong, then arguing why he’s wrong.  Their “rationality” framing is just self-congratulatory smoke. 

Wright, I think, does a better job here because his first example points to an inconsistency and illustrates an elementary logical error so obvious that cognitive bias is the likely cause.  Anyway, by implication at least he seems to be arguing against using “rational” and “irrational” prescriptively because he believes we are all in the same boat; that we should neither be calling ourselves “rational” nor others “irrational” because we all suffer from the same deviations from the former into the later.

I agree with that last sentiment, which is why personally I avoid the term.  Like you say, even in formal usage it is elastic (for instance, the formalizations I offered don’t even align well with one another…)

 

[ Edited: 04 October 2019 06:40 by TheAnal_lyticPhilosopher]
 
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