The Myth of rational thinking

Greg Berns doesn’t want you to make a decision by yourself. He doesn’t trust you.

People don’t make rational decisions, he contends, and you are likely to muck it up. Don’t be offended by his reasoning, though. He says that there are biological reasons why we all get it wrong….

Economists had long assumed that with proper information or instruction, people would make good financial decisions, systematically and without emotion.

“We know from studies that people don’t make rational decisions,” Berns says. “The problem with economic models is that they assume a certain level of rationality by people, that people will maximize their benefits.”

Add into the mix that most of us don’t know that we are irrational, says Emory economist Monica Capra, who is a member of the center. People believe they themselves are rational, even if everyone else isn’t she says.

“The purely rational economic man is indeed close to being a social moron” — Amartya Sen, “Rational Fools”

“Man is a rational animal who always loses his temper when he is called upon to act in accordance with the dictates of reason.” — Oscar Wilde

“Insanity — a perfectly rational adjustment to an insane world.” — R. D. Laing

“The human race is in such a dreadful state that no rational person can talk about it without resorting to seditious and obscene language” — Henry Louis Mencken

“It has been said that man is a rational animal. All my life I have been searching for evidence which could support this.” — Bertrand Russell

“Of all the ways of defining man, the worst is the one which makes him out to be a rational animal.”
— Anatole France

The intellect is inherently dualistic. It makes distinctions and creates new connections between concepts and calls that “meaning.” This type of analytical thinking is extremely limited in the face of Tao, which is not fully rational, nor fully quantitative, not fully describable. Though most followers of Tao are learned, they also realize that the intellect is but one aspect in what must be a multifaceted approach to Tao.

It is said one must give up education, not because we should be dumb, but because we mut seek a level on consciousness beyond the intellect. We must study, but not to the point that emphasis on experience and meditation is lost. If we can combine the intellect and direct experience with out meditative mid, then there will be no barrier to the wordless perception of reality.

Deng Ming-Dao, 365 Tao

The sage never tries to store things up.
The more he does for others, the more he has.
The more he gives to others, the greater his abundance.

– Tao Te Ching, Eighty-one

Moksa becomes relevant when one realizes that behind one’s struggle for security, artha, and pleasures, kama, is the basic human desire to be adequate, free from all incompleteness, and that no amount of security or pleasure achieves that goal. So when a mature person analyzes his experiences, he discovers that behind his pursuit of security and pleasure is a basic desire to be free from all insufficiency, to be free from incompleteness itself, a basic desire which no amount of artha and kamam fulfills. This realization brings a certain dispassion, nirveda, towards security and pleasures. The mature person gains dispassion towards his former pursuits and is ready to seek liberation, moksa, directly.

— Swami Dayananda Saraswati


2 Responses

  1. I’m not a big believer that “sages” and “pundits” know any more about anything than the rest of us, even if they have “Swami” in front of their name.

    Those “experts” who do these studies about “rationality” and how we all lack that trait probably don’t run their lives any better than the rest of us slobs.

    I wonder sometimes whether the “notable quotable” folks beat their wives, drink/drug excessively, abuse children, drive recklessly, smoke cigarettes, act rudely to others, etc., and whether, with all that wisdom, they ever reach in their pockets to actually help anyone less fortunate.

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