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Re: Digest Number 499

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  • Steve Marquis
    Aaron asked about rationality : ____________ . . . claims to being Rational are not to different than claims to have Divine justification. Rationality . . .
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 2, 2000
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      Aaron asked about 'rationality':

      . . . claims to being Rational are not to different than claims to
      have Divine justification.

      Rationality . . . has become a purposive rationality (see Habermas)
      rather than a subject-centered reason. Rationality is now nearly
      synonymous to Efficiency. Final goals are not considered to be
      Rational or Irrational, simply the means to achieve these goals.)

      To solve this problem (actually, to avoid the problem) I do not think
      of my actions as Rational but rather conforming to nature. By
      then, I guess, to be Rational, as I see it, is to act in conformity
      with nature.

      Is this the Stoic definition?

      Aaron, you've hit on a key issue that's bugged me for a long time.
      Rationality was proposed by the Stoics and others as the defining
      attribute of human nature, the essence of what it meant to be a human
      being. This was such an important attribute as to be considered
      divine, our share of the universal Logos. Rationality was identified
      with Virtue and living in accordance with Nature, all synonymous
      or phrases, as far as I can tell.

      Valid reasoning was given high honors as well. Logic was one of the
      three divisions of the Stoic school. But it was only one of three,
      and practical ethics was the end to which logic was used. Abstract
      reasoning by itself was not credited with intrinsic value in the way
      practical reasoning was. This gives a hint at what a can of worms
      this is.

      In trying to understand ancient thought, or ideas from any other
      culture for that matter, we are tempted to see implications and
      meanings that aren't there because we assume our own cultural
      Compounding the problem is that many writers, both ancient and
      assumes the reader for the most part is familiar with their
      terminology. I've looked for a good definition of ancient
      'rationality' in my few reference works here at work and haven't
      one that's specific enough. So, for now I must be satisfied with
      garnering a meaning from the context in which the word is used.

      It is clear that reasoning of some kind is necessary for purposeful
      choosing, and that choosing from between various alternatives depends
      on my awareness of my ability to do so; in other words
      Further, the ability to choose, which I can deny but cannot avoid,
      implies that one choice is better than another, in other words more
      valuable. But reasoning by itself, while necessary to discern cause
      and effect relationships, does not tell us what we ought to value.
      So, for now, deductive / inductive / instrumental reasoning is
      necessary but not sufficient for Virtue. These are all examples of
      analytical reasoning which I equate with the logic of the classical
      Stoics, but which I do not equate with rationality, only a component

      Some other possible attributes for Stoic rationality I've collected
      from my readings (not an exhaustive list):

      1) Logical consistency. This is the familiar valid argument. A
      rational person would be able to articulate reasons for his or her
      choices, with the necessary supporting premises and a good connecting
      argument. A claim to rationality certainly would not be a claim
      attempting to halt inquiry.

      2) Practicality. Reasoning and philosophy were both to be used for
      living well, not just as a hobby or academic study.

      3) Proactive living. This means conscious decision making, not
      reacting out of habit. Careful consideration and critical thinking
      are two other ways of saying the same thing. Each situation requires
      its own deliberation and selection of options. This eliminates
      rule-following unless the current deliberate choice just happens to
      align with a rule.

      4) Integration. A rational life would be one lived from a whole life
      perspective, eliminating internal cross purposes. A rational person
      would see things in an all-inclusive context, rather than as isolated

      5) The above implies one, and one only, final end, or purpose, for
      one's life.

      6) Rationality is an activity a person does, not something that is
      acquired, whether that be a state of mind or some external thing. It
      is a continuos on-going process, not what a person does in
      but how he or she does things in general.

      7) It is not just making the morally correct choice, it is
      understanding why it is the morally correct choice to make.

      Phronesis, commonly translated as practical reasoning, is very close
      to what I see as Stoic rationality. Phronesis is not just using
      reasoning in our day-to-day lives to more efficiently get what we
      want, it is a consciously developed skill to reason well or correctly
      in moral matters; ie, matters of value. And since this is a top
      process that involves each and every decision, this means every
      selection matters. Stoic Virtue is not limited to just typical moral
      dilemma situations. No relaxing!!!

      So, if reasoning is value neutral, how do we determine what we ought
      to value?

      The answer was: value what is in accordance with nature. And that
      includes our individual nature, human nature, and universal nature.
      Once we understand what our nature entails, then selecting the
      indifferents from the available options that correspond with that
      nature is living virtuously, or rationally. Part of living in
      accordance with our nature will be using reasoning in this process,
      but I am not convinced that's the entirety of it. The Stoics
      identified Virtue, Rationality, and Nature with the Good, certainly a
      value term. It seems we have the task of learning what both things
      that accord with our nature and what things contrary to our nature

      A final point: Too heavy a reliance on equating rationality with
      left-brained (or is it right-brained???) analytical reasoning alone
      denies half of ourselves. I don't believe the Stoics were this
      From their unitary model of the mind I take rationality to be more
      a fully functional harmonious mind that has integrated all of its
      various potentials, including creativity, imagination, and emotion.
      Rational comes from 'ratio' after all.

      Aaron, I agree with you. Its better to keep in mind the dictum 'live
      in accordance with nature'. While we figure out what our best nature
      is, this at least gets us away from confusing different meanings of
      rationality and reasoning. More research required.

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