12 comments

  • >For most people definatley not.Also Rationality can't really be applied to emotions and opinions (e.g is it rational to like blue more than orange)Another point – constantly analysing decisions and situations like the fellow in the picture is impossible – first, there isnt always time to rationalise/analyse situations. Second; how far do you analyse – you could make 100's of pages of calculations concerning each little decision you make. Last point – what is rational exactly? is it the action that leads to the most desirable outcome? If so whose outcome should be considered more important? Believe me you could go round in circles. For most people (those ones who just dont care/aren't interested) they just make decisions without thinking with themselves predominantly in mind (is self preservation rational?)

  • >It's your last point that I think really makes this debate. For instance you say emotions are not rational and yet is it not rational to pursue your goals? If you feel a desire to eat chocolate and then do so is that not rational?

  • >well, its rational if you like chocolate.But what if you like chocolate, but you are on a diet.Now – what if you like chocolate, are on a diet, know the chocolate is from tradecraft, you could have given the money to a homeless person etc etc etc. My point is twofold; first it is probably impossible to determine a completely rational course of action because there are so many variables so consider (perhaps an infinite amount if you think about it). Second; if a person saved someones life, they would probably say it was rational to perpetuate the human species. However a nut who hates humanity (dont say anything battye) might consider it rational to let the persson die.Rationality is not, as many people think, objective – just another subjective term. Can you tyhink of anything other than maths which is a univeversally objective term?

  • >Yes but there is a difference between a rational decision i.e. one that uses logic, and the best possible decision i.e. the one that uses the most logicI agree that rationality is subjective, because arguments differ. Yet rationality doesn't have to stem solely from your conscious mind. Surely sub-conscious decisions are rational too if they achieve a desired goal? For instance it may be rational to eat some chocolate even if the best decision for your health would be to not eat it, for eating it still serves to attain a desired purpose/rational goal.

  • >sorry, but i dont think 'desired purpose' is the same as 'rational goal'. We have to differentiate. For instance someone can have the desire to committ suicide, but are probably not acting rationally (unless for instance, they are set to die a horrible painful death).A rational goal (as I said) is much harder to achieve, and requires much more thought – and because its subjective you will innevitably go round forevever in a loop trying to determine what action is more rational – but i dont think rational = desirable (because people dont usually know what they want themselves – see argument for dictatorship).

  • >"sorry, but i dont think 'desired purpose' is the same as 'rational goal'". This was kind of my thinking i.e. what is rational? Everyone's concept of 'the rational' differs.I think that the pursuit of desired goals is very rational. You say that committing suicide is not rational. Yet if you aim to die then not committing suicide is irrational. It is when you take additional desires, such as the desire not to hurt others, into account that you start thinking such an act is irrational.This goes back to what I said about the difference between a rational decision and the best possible decision. If you have a desire to do X, Y and Z then the best and perhaps most rational action would be to pursue something that achieved all goals. Yet that does not mean that only that action is the rational one. Let's say an opportunity arises to do X. You have a split second to decide and, knowing that you want to do X, you take that opportunity. Just because you later realise that that act stopped you pursuing Y and Z, it does not mean you were not rational in pursuing the action. At the end of the day anything that involves rationality is rational, no matter what degree of rationality there is/was.

  • >Let us differentiate again, and say;IT IS RATIONAL TO PURSUE YOUR OWN DESIRE. BUT PEOPLES DESIRES ARE NOT ALWAYS RATIONAL (AND PEOPLE CHANGE THEIR MINDS, DONT KNOW WHAT THEY WANT OUT OF LIFE ETCSo yes, the pursuit of our desires is rational – but the desires themselves are sometimes irrational, and might afterwards be cause for regretKnowing this we have to say the pursuit of some desires is irrational (for instance if you know youll end up in prison.Come on, ive met you in the middle – now agree and we can all go to bed

  • >Actually I think this comes under the catergory of conflicting desires – In which case the question is, which desire is it more rational to pursue (i.e. the desire to rape someone or the desire not to go to prison). And I think that comes back to the basic pursuit of happiness/avoidence of pain conversation.Main point, you said "pursuit of desired goals is very rational" but this is not true if;1. If the desire itself is an irrational one (e.g. the desire to kill someone for reasons the person themselves cannot understand), how can the pursuit of that desire be rational? 2. desired goals can lead to regret and suffering after goal has been achieved, from a later point in time a once rational goal may now seem irrational

  • >I agree with Rob's circular logic that rational thinking, albeit with limited knowledge, implies that it must be a rational decision, even though it may not achieve desired outcomes, and/or somebody with greater knowledge would see it as an illogical action, and therefore mistakenly label it as not being rational.In essence it is as Rob states, it involved rationality, therefore it must be rational, at least form the perspective of the person who made the decision.I then like to agree with Robin, that the pursuit of desires is rational, but that the desires themselves may not be.Some desires may come about due to psychological problems, or due to the chemical make-up of people's brains, etc. An example is Tourettes syndrome. The person is following their impulse/desire to swear, therefore the behaviour of swearing for that person is a rational one. However the desire that causes them to swear is not.Then of course there are things that are more difficult to delineate. A man who dates a woman and then gets invited up for coffee, etc may have a desire to have sex with the woman. People would say that this desire is rational.However, a teenage boy going through puberty, may have the desire to have sex with pretty much every woman he see. People may then say that this is irrational.However both desires eminate from the same place and are caused by the same chemical signals in the brain.In finance, there is the (in)famous theory called "Efficient-markets theory" that is based on the premise that the markets are rational.This theory is taught at uni as a good theory that doesn't always hold true. It is also belittled by many commentators when the markets go crazy.However after reading the posts on this blog I think that the market is rational, and that the participants involved are applying rational thinking in the pursuit of profits. It is the media commentators who mistake the markets' goal to be that of the pursuit of calculating fair value.

  • >I agree almost completely with Sean. There's an interesting book that's just been published by Justin Fox called 'The Myth of the Irrational Market'. I've not read it but listened to an Economist discussion about the book and it sounds good. It's basically putting that common knowledge about the fact that the 'Efficient Markets Theory' doesn't always apply, into text. I mean you say that academics have always said it doesn't apply and that's true. But most practicioners of finance still practice it, and when only some do that's ok. But when all do that gets dangerous.This is the messy part of the discussion here though. Can our desires, and indeed our actions responding to these desires, be irrational? It all depends on definitions and boundaries. For instance those actions that Robin referred to (when you don't quite know why you did something) are essentially sub-conscious decisions. Of course the decisions are still made by you. But are they rational? That depends on whether you define rational thought as conscious thought or not. After all the laws of science are never broken. There is cause and effect. Your sub-conscious mind is responding to desires and pursuing them in a way that could be defined as rational. I think the only way to address this is to say that everything has a degree of rationality but that there is a scale, and that those least thought out actions can still be called very irrational.Going back to the question, whether humans are rational, I say yes. I agree that some things can be defined as irrational. Yet normally such issues have to be judged in relative terms. Hence in comparison to all other life forms that we know of, we employ the most rationality and are therefore the most rational creatures.

  • >You mean "The myth of the Rational market" right?I tried reading about it online at teh economist but it is only available for subscribers.By onl reading the summary you have provided I restate my case. Mr Fox is one of the market commentators who has failed to understand what the underlying premise of efficient markets is.It is the rational desire to avoid losing money, and to make money. Literally fear and greed.It is NOT a desire to agree on a fair intrinsic value of stocks.The fair value of stocks is only a correlation that is used to justify the prices of stocks and give a ball-park trading range in normal circumstances.I too had made the mistake of thinking the markets are irrational, but they are not, because the market is acting upon its participants desires, fear and greed.

  • >"You mean "The myth of the Rational market" right?" Yes, obviously. Oops!"Mr Fox is one of the market commentators who has failed to understand what the underlying premise of efficient markets is." I don't think either of us can comment on that without reading the book.Your conclusion about markets being rational is at the very heart of this debate. The Economic theory doesn't take all such emotions into account. That's Behavioural Economics. What Orthodox Economics teaches us is closer to Robin's view of rationality. For example it assumes that if you can get 2 sweets for the same price as one you will always take two. Yet as we have discussed, it can be quite rational to take one for a variety of reasons e.g. a diet. Basically, Economics must conclude that some beahviour is irrational because we currently have no way of measuring every human behaviour. The thing is that just because our economic models can't predict something does not mean it is irrational.

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