From: Jurriaan Bendien (adsl675281@TISCALI.NL)
Date: Fri Apr 07 2006 - 15:06:16 EDT
Hi Jerry, You wrote: If the person can't reasonably answer WHY choices were made then the choices can't be said to be rational. With due respect, I regard this as a fallacy -somebody may make a perfectly rational choice, without being able to explicate (fully or in part) the reasons why himself, even although others can recognise it as a rational choice. I met a child once who was extraordinarily good at solving computational problems, but if I asked, how do you do get to the correct answer, he would sincerely say "dunno"; he could not explicate his cognitive strategy. That is to say, the subconscious mind can supply perfectly rational solutions. In game theory, it is possible to devise situations, in which no matter what option an actor chooses, the choice will always be irrational with respect to his goal or interest, or alternatively always rational, no matter what he chooses. You might say, analogously, that in a dysfunctional society, human action typically has more bad effects than good effects (cumulative degeneration), while in a wellfunctioning society, human actions have more good effects than bad effects (a sort of "multiplier" or "valorising" effect). You wrote: To answer those questions requires that one question and understand on some level the way in which social institutions shaped one's preferences. Maybe so, but not necessarily. Some things are just a matter of taste. I think you are confusing rationality and rationalism. Rationalism is the belief that there is, at least in principle, a rational explanation for all phenomena (in terms of reasons/causes/effects/likelihoods which are experientially verifiable), and that we should aim for such an explanation. This belief underpins much of modern science. But like I said, there are aspects of human experience not amenable to rational explication, indeed to try to understand it rationally might destroy the experience. There's science and there's scientism. You wrote: So -- to refer back to the paragraph you wrote above -- we need to know WHY we prefer one characteristic to another before we can rationally say what are the "relevant facts and arguments." Logically, this is circular - in establishing why, we refer to relevant facts and arguments. Your argument concerns more what factors should count as a valid or full explanation. Marxism is often presented as a deterministic doctrine, but this doctrine may be completely counterproductive to the emancipatory aims Marx had. You ask: Embedded within many of these choices in different cultures are (different) cultural understandings of "love". When love comes in the front door, does rationality go out the back? Is love in bourgeois society even consistent with the concept of rational behavior? According to comrade Mikhail Gorbachov (interview, Resurgence Magazine #184), love is "a mystery of nature" (though I bet he didn't say that to his wife Raisa, when he married her - this is a bit like the pope talking about the virgin birth; scientific evidence suggests that parthenogenesis may occur in humans, but very rarely). I think from a historical-materialist perspective, broadly speaking, human love is a social praxis which refers to the whole of human relationships involved in human interactions that have to do with: -giving -appropriating (taking and getting) -receiving -sharing/including -excluding -accepting -letting go If there is some kind of balance or harmony in the metabolism of these relationships, people feel love or loved, they are well motivated, and if there isn't, they don't feel that. Human culture may be defined as everything that humans have created, in contrast to what is given in nature. The culture provides norms, limits and meanings for negotiating these relationships in interactions. Thus, there is a kind of "logic" to it, and in this sense love is at least partly, though not totally, rational. In a primitive love, the interactions mentioned may be very simple; in a cultured love, they may involve very refined distinctions involving a very highly developed semiotic ability for stimulus identification, stimulus discrimination, and stimulus generalisation. Marx himself wrote: "the human essence is no abstraction inherent in each single individual. In its reality it is the ensemble of their social relations." In the same way, a more profound understanding of love is a relational one, i.e. love is no longer interpreted simply as a state of being, but as a developing activity occurring within relations that crystallise out an expression of love. However, as long as millions of people starve or die from preventable diseases and wars, eeking out an existence hardly fit for a human being, we have to conclude that we are still really in the "prehistory" of human love. You don't have to be Bono or Bob Geldof, to understand that. You wrote: How many of us really understand ourselves? How many of are even introspective -- let alone _critically_ introspective? How many of aren't introspective because we are _afraid_ of what we might discover about ourselves? I honestly do not know. What I do know, is that most people necessarily HAVE understand their own functioning to a large extent, simply to survive, live and work in society. Thus, in a historical-materialist interpretation, we talk about necessary understandings, just as we talk about ideological (mystifying) understandings. Social consciousness necessarily evolves in certain ways, because people HAVE to understand things in a certain way, even if only to survive. But very likely a lot of that understanding is also at the level of the subconscious, and not conscious. Generally, in praxiology, we do not evaluate the rationality or irrationality of people and their actions/interactions simply in terms of the consciously formulated reasons they supply, but in terms of the total context of their activity. We focus not simply on thoughts in people's heads, but on what they do and the context in which they do it. Thus Marx writes, "All social life is essentially practical. All mysteries which lead theory to mysticism find their rational solution in human practice, and in the comprehension of this practice." Why should love be an exception? This is a radical new departure from Cartesian rationalism, as well as from religious thought. To some extent, American pragmatism also approximates this approach, but because it is concerned with what seems to work and does not probe the deeper reasons why, it ultimately resorts to God. This possibly explains your concern with the "why's" of human choices. Jurriaan How many times do I have to try to tell you That I'm sorry for the things I've done But when I start to try to tell you That's when you have to tell me Hey...this kind of trouble's only just begun I tell myself too many times Why don't you ever learn to keep your big mouth shut That's why it hurts so bad to hear the words That keep on falling from your mouth Falling from your mouth Falling from your mouth Tell me Why Why I may be mad I may be blind I may be viciously unkind But I can still read what you're thinking And I've heard is said too many times That you're better off Besides... Why can't you see this boat is sinking (This boat is sinking this boat is sinking) Let's go down to the water's edge And we can cast away those doubts Some things are better left unsaid But they still turn me inside out Turning inside out turning inside out Tell me... Why Tell me... Why This is the book I never read These are the words I never said This is the path I'll never tread These are the dreams I'll dream instead This is the joy that's seldom spread These are the tears... The tears we shed This is the fear This is the dread These are the contents of my head And these are the years that we have spent And this is what they represent And this is how I feel Do you know how I feel? 'Cause I don't think you know how I feel I don't think you know how I feel I don't think you know how I feel You don't know what I feel - Eurythmics, "Why"
This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.5 : Sun Apr 30 2006 - 00:00:06 EDT