Ruminations of a Rationologist (Schematic)
'Rehabilitating Introspection' provides the methodological foundation for my theory of ego/self-worth related emotion presented in 'Feelings of Worthlessness' which, in turn, serves as the foundation for the remaining papers. One of the manifestations of this methodology is the presentation of a diagram of a `Phylogeny of Psychical Functions' in which the two primary phyla are 'Cognitive Functions' appearing on the left side of the diagram and 'Conative Functions' appearing on the right side of the diagram (Diagram II).
Cognitive Functions (phylum)What little I have to say on the classes of function in this phylum is presented in the `Rehabilitating Introspection' paper itself.
.. Conative FunctionsElaboration on the classes of function appearing in this phylum, and particularly the class referred to as `Higher Emotion', comprises the subject matter of the remaining papers.
This paper, which presents the heart of my theory, outlines the implications of the premise that `feelings of worthlessness' are a maladaptive byproduct of the evolution of rationality. This outline actually offers two different explanations for this, the first one based on psychodynamic considerations and the second couched in the language of a theory of rationality.
Feelings of Worthlessness
Explanation #1This paper fleshes out the psychodynamic explanation outlined in `Feelings of Worthlessness'.
Why We Turned Out Like Captain Kirk
.. Explanation #2This paper fleshes out one of the implications of the rationality theory explanation and employs the resulting insights to vindicate the general hypothesis presented in `Feelings of Worthlessness'.
Referring to myself as a "rationologist" is a reflection of my belief that I have discovered a more science-like approach to the study of rationality than has traditionally been the case. This belief is based on the following assumptions and considerations:
- The assumption that Thomas Kuhn basically got it right in his conclusion that one of the more reliable indicators that a theory qualifies as "scientific" can be found in its ability to address a theoretical anomaly in an already well established scientific theory.
- The identification of a theoretical anomaly ('feelings of worthlessness') in a pre-existing scientific theory (evolutionary theory) as explained in 'Rehabilitating Introspection' ('Higher Emotion') resulting, not from the development of a more powerful telescope or precise measuring instrument, but rather from the abandonment of a mistaken assumption ('Rehabilitating Introspection' - first paragraph).
- The assumption that the aforementioned anomaly can be plausibly addressed by assuming that 'feelings of worthlessness' are a maladaptive byproduct of the evolution of rationality ('Feelings of Worthlessness').
- The assumption that the verification of a scientific theory is a function of its ability to maximize explanatory coherence (a la C.S. Peirce, Gilbert Harman, Paul Thagard, William Lycan, etc.) as I have demonstrated in 'Rationology 101' by resolving a number of rationality paradoxes (rational irrationality, cognitive vs. practical rationality conflict, the "rationality debate", the Prisoners' Dilemma, etc.) based on an implication of the premise that 'feelings of worthlessness' are a maladaptive byproduct of the evolution of rationality.
Doubts about the "standard picture"
If one assumes, as I have conjectured (e.g., here), that feelings of worthlessness are not so much an adaptation as a maladaptive byproduct of the evolution of rationality in the sense of resulting from a more objective understanding of how the world is put together, it seems to follow that the "standard picture" (Stein) of rationality is mistaken. 'Being rational' is not so much a matter of slavishly conforming to established rules of inference (a process) as a matter of 'being able to "see" what is going on' as a result of reasoning that has already transpired, whether one's own, or culturally acquired (the product of a process). If so then, rather than an assessment of one's reasoning, our common sense rationality ascriptions might better be construed as appraisals of a mental map of sorts in which the cognitive component of this "seeing" correlates with the extent to which the map is comprised of beliefs that accurately and coherently represent reality including, among many other things, beliefs about how to acquire beliefs that accurately and coherently represent reality (reflected in how well one reasons).
Since in this view 'being rational' is likely to be a matter of degree, this would also mean that when we refer to an individual as "rational" or "irrational" that we are probably just expressing a rough appraisal of how this individual's mental map compares to the norm. For this reason, I do not believe we should construe experimental evidence that humans routinely violate established rules of inference as evidence that humans are irrational, as some have seemed to suggest (e.g., Tversky and Kahneman 1972; Nisbett and Borgida 1976; Slovic et al. 1976; etc.),* but rather as evidence that expert opinion might be relatively more rational than the norm (in terms of 'being able to "see" what is going on') where such matters are concerned. However, this can be a two edged sword in that, given our common sense understanding that rationality and logic are by no means synonymous, and our common sense understanding that, come hell or high water, ordinary human beings are the standard for what qualifies as rational, some might argue that expert opinion has been relatively less rational than the norm with regard to its longstanding love affair with the "standard picture".**
*Cohen, L. Jonathan (1981), 'Can Human Irrationality Be Experimentally Demonstrated?', Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 4: 317-370; 6: 487-533; 10: 311-13
**Indeed, as is so often the case, I suspect the lover in question may have been blinded by lust, on this occasion, the lust to reduce mind to matter via the reduction of rationality to logic/ rules/ processes/ principles/ procedures, etc. that can be instantiated in a computer (so-called cognitive "science").