Re: Metarationality (was: JOIN: Alden Streeter)

From: Samantha Atkins (
Date: Fri Aug 23 2002 - 23:02:53 MDT

Personally, I have problems with the implied premise that
rationality is the end and be all of human consciousness. I
believe it is very important and foundational but I do not
believe it is penultimate. I usually find the way people speak
of it and defend it and especially defend against any notion
that it might not be the hightest end-good of sentience,
decidely circular. It looks a bit like another memeset defended
vigourously against all others. It cannot integrate with other
memes easily unless it can dominate or consume them into itself.

Eliezer S. Yudkowsky wrote:

> I've run into this before. I'm starting to think of it as a large,
> black cancer that swallows people's minds and sucks them into a terrible
> and inescapable corner of memespace. Why? Isn't it a perfectly
> reasonable possibility that Gordon and I do in fact have an irrational
> attachment to the idea of our own rationality? Yes. However, the way
> I've observed these conversations to run in practice is that *any*
> attempt to employ deliberative thinking about rationality gets written
> off, without further explanation or attempted debugging, as a speaker
> rationalization. The swallowed person just basically doesn't *trust*
> rationality - they've found that it doesn't work them, they're not
> willing to believe that it could work for anyone else, and they think
> it's basically a social persuasive device (maybe because in the past
> they lost a lot of arguments to empty rationalizations and learned to
> associate *all* verbal reasoning with coercive social force; I don't know).

In point of fact many of the most stringent holders of the
rational-is-triumphant meme are socially coercive and
dismissive. This does not in any way downplay the tremendous
importance of rationality. But there is a difference in fully
employing rationality as a tool and believing it is the greatest
and hightest good besides which all other aspects of
consciousness and ways of being and knowing are pitifully
second-rate if they are not contemptible. Note the stridency
that often ensues. It is very reminiscent of the stridency of
most any true believer that they and they alone have "the Way".
I think some of the Spiral Dynamics folks may be on to
something. The rational "Orange" level is essential to human
consciousness development and our current (at least western
society is dominated by it). However, it is still within the
pattern of denigrating almost all else but itself and thinking
that it is the "final" stage. I think rationality plus a lot of
self honesty and examination flowers into more than rationality

> Now how the heck do you dig someone out of *that* hole?
> I don't know. I don't even have any evidence that it's possible. Not
> only have I never personally succeeded in doing it, I've never seen it
> done.
> It's perfectly okay if someone wants to explain what, specifically, is
> wrong with my rationality, but this thing of distrusting rationality in
> general... it gives me the cold chills. (I have the following specific
> reason to suspect I may be irrational in this instance: my negative
> reaction is created by the instinctive relation of negative reactions to
> past aversive reinforcement, and I am expressing this negative reaction
> in speech that seems instinctively appropriate. This may be the wrong
> approximation to the actions that would be rationally appropriate, but I
> can't think of any specific correction to make.)

I don't distrust rationality. I distrust the near-worship of
rationality as if it were more than it is.

- samantha

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