RE: Metarationality (was: JOIN: Alden Streeter)

From: Ben Goertzel (
Date: Fri Aug 23 2002 - 22:01:04 MDT

Gordon wrote:
> This is a form of macho rationalism. Rather than developing rational
> content, you're developing rationalish behavior. You are only being
> rational by consequence of the fact that your behavior coincides with
> the rational choice most of the time.

I think this is a false distinction. I think that rationality means
rational behavior.

There may be many different psychological processes, in different minds,
resulting in similar rational behaviors.

> > I don't see *eliminating* my own irrationality as a viable prospect,
> > except
> > thru radical neuromodification! It can be *reduced*, and then what's
> > left
> > can be *moderated*.
> Of course you cannot eliminate it from you completely without cutting
> out parts of your brain. What you can do rather than reduce and
> moderate is ignore. And I don't mean ignore like you ignore a small
> child begging you for a frozen treat. Ignore as in completely not
> notice; your mind doesn't know the difference between ignoring and not
> having.

I think that if you simply *consciously ignore* the large irrational
components of your mind, they are going to end up strongly influencing you
unconsciously. I think it's better to explicitly come to grips with them.
Ignoring them, in my view, is likely to lead to what Freud called
"sublimation" of them. [And no, I don't believe most of Freudian

> The only difference between the `conscious'
> and `unconscious' parts of your brain are that the former allow for
> feedback on the process of thought, whereas the latter only allow for
> feedback on the results.

I think this is a very naive psychological statement.

In fact, I think it's an *irrational* statement ;)

It is a statement that constradicts many known facts of cognitive

I feel you are making this statement with such confidence because you would
*like* it to be true.

Is it rational to hold such a strong belief based on such little evidence,
when you're educated enough to realize there is empirical evidence on such
topics, right there in the library for your reading pleasure?

> > I've seen you each make many judgments that seemed to me purely
> > emotional...
> Which decisions were those?

One example is your habit of making strong statements about human
psychology, which also happen to contradict known psychological facts.

Now, I'm not saying that you make these statements explicitly KNOWING that
they contradict known psychological facts.

But I can't understand why you would think it was rational to hold and
assert such strong beliefs based purely on your anecdotal experience and
intuition, when you know full well there is a whole field of scientific
psychology out there, that might well contradict your anecdotal experience
and intuition (and has done so before, for instance refuting your asserted
intuition that passivity and rationality are correlated).

> > Interestingly, though, I have not yet met anyone who
> >
> > a) seemed to me to be more rational than myself
> > b) also seemed to me to be roughly as creative as myself -- or even
> > *almost*
> > as creative as myself
> My use of the correspondence theory of truth indicates otherwise.

I don't understand what you're saying here.

Rationality does not generate ideas all that effectively, though it can test
and analyze ideas what they exist very effectively; and it can incrementally
extend existing ideas.

Some forms of irrationality are good at creating new ideas, but bad at
testing, analyzing and refining them.

Thus rationality works well in conjunction with some irrational thought
processes, which involve various types of quasirandom concept creation.

The most brilliant scientists have generally combined intensely effective
rationality with quirky but effective nonrational thought processes...

> > I believe that high levels of creativity often go along with willful or
> > automatic suspensions of rationality. (Of course, this may be rational
> > on a
> > meta level: one may find that it is rational to sometimes let yourself
> > be
> > irrational!) But when a mind spends a lot of "creative time" pursuing
> > unlikely, irrational trains of thought, it often has difficulty shifting
> > back into a less creative but more rational mode. I have seen this in
> > very
> > many others, as well as myself.
> I used to daydream a lot. Since pursuing rationality, this has
> stopped. Time spent thinking irrationally is not time worth thinking.

Irrational thinking can generate ideas that are later useful in rational
thinking. This is a subjective impression held by many many people and
quite thoroughly researched.

-- Ben

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