[OPE-L] Sexuality, Rationality & Irrationality under Capitalism

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:

-appropriating (taking and getting)
-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
-- 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.


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
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
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...
Tell me...
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"

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