Rationalization and the Importance of Argument

Rationalization and the Importance of Argument
Buddahchuck
Bodhisatva
Avatar

Usergroup: Members
Joined: Jan 16, 2006

Total Topics: 39
Total Posts: 69
#1 - Quote - Permalink
Posted Jan 18, 2011 - 11:55 AM:
Subject: Rationalization and the Importance of Argument
In an interesting discussion the other day, I was tempted to offer an explanation for the pursuing of argumentation and the context in which it is understood. It is this discussion and the idea which ensues which I feel may be a topic of interest for the forum.

The crux of the argument which I was presenting was derived as follows:

Nearly everything that is uttered is, to some degree, a rationalization of an act. People act, then they try desperately to invent reasons why the act that way. The person feels that something has to be true, and in response, rationality follows. this is the very process of rationalization, deriving reasons after the fact. In this way, many of our notions become sort of irrelevant. Moral decisions amount to little more than moral excuses; Laws become the result of policies meant to benefit individuals rather than society; and science becomes limited by our imaginations. In fact, the scientific process is a great example of rationalization. The first step of the scientific process is to make a guess as to what is true, to hypothesize. And toward the end of the process, we find that what is resolved is more or less only to test to see if the guess was right or wrong. Now, all of this is not to diminish the importance of reason and what it has achieved so far, but only to say that standard human use of reason limits its capacity.

But because reason is limited in this way, argument is required to hash out the right and wrong. You see, rationalization is not the end of reason, but rather, the beginning. Once we have devised what it is we wish to be true, we must constantly discuss and hash-out the ideas which we encounter, not to see if they are true or not, but to see if they are useful in the world we experience.

So two points that encompass many others:

1) Every idea begins with some sort of rationalization.

2) Argumentation is part of the reasoning process that allows us to discern which ideas are useful to keep and how such ideas are useful.

Of course, these ideas entail that will is not entirely free, that human reason is first and foremost flawed and that morality is little more than a game we play. Interested?
180 Proof
entropist
Avatar

Usergroup: Sponsors
Joined: Apr 27, 2003
Location: [virgo supercluster [local group [milky way [sol III [northern hemisphere [-7/8hrs gmt]]]]]]

Total Topics: 152
Total Posts: 2522
#2 - Quote - Permalink
Posted Jan 18, 2011 - 1:44 PM:

Buddahchuck wrote:
Nearly everything that is uttered is, to some degree, a rationalization of an act. People act, then they try desperately to invent reasons why the act that way. The person feels that something has to be true, and in response, rationality follows. this is the very process of rationalization, deriving reasons after the fact. In this way, many of our notions become sort of irrelevant. Moral decisions amount to little more than moral excuses; Laws become the result of policies meant to benefit individuals rather than society; and science becomes limited by our imaginations. In fact, the scientific process is a great example of rationalization. The first step of the scientific process is to make a guess as to what is true, to hypothesize. And toward the end of the process, we find that what is resolved is more or less only to test to see if the guess was right or wrong. Now, all of this is not to diminish the importance of reason and what it has achieved so far, but only to say that standard human use of reason limits its capacity.

But because reason is limited in this way, argument is required to hash out the right and wrong. You see, rationalization is not the end of reason, but rather, the beginning. Once we have devised what it is we wish to be true, we must constantly discuss and hash-out the ideas which we encounter, not to see if they are true or not, but to see if they are useful in the world we experience.

So two points that encompass many others:

1) Every idea begins with some sort of rationalization.

2) Argumentation is part of the reasoning process that allows us to discern which ideas are useful to keep and how such ideas are useful.

nod

Of course, these ideas entail that will is not entirely free, that human reason is first and foremost flawed and that morality is little more than a game we play.

No doubt, these "entailments" will be "rationalized" below. wink
mooks
Newbie

Usergroup: Members
Joined: Jan 17, 2011

Total Topics: 1
Total Posts: 5
#3 - Quote - Permalink
Posted Jan 18, 2011 - 1:46 PM:

I don't understand the point that you're trying to make.

Rationalization only occurs when we perceive our actions as being controversial or requiring of some explanation. Not every act is followed by rationalization; it is only if the individual feels like he has violated some moral or ethical code, making his action inappropriate.

I don't feel the need to explain myself after I do something; rather, I consider the consequences and rewards of the action before I make it. Then, if the conditions are agreeable to me, I perform the action. But I rarely explain myself to someone, unless they ask for an explanation. I don't consider that to be making an excuse.

Also, what do you mean by science becomes limited by our imaginations?

Isn't it already understood that science carries that quality intrinsically? Science is nothing more than a manifestation of human experimentation. Following this logic, the scope of science is limited by the scope of the human brain. Every scientific discovery, everything in the science textbooks, was discovered & recorded by a human.
BitterCrank
PF Addict

Usergroup: Sponsors
Joined: Mar 01, 2008
Location: Minneapolis

Total Topics: 184
Total Posts: 7545
#4 - Quote - Permalink
Posted Jan 18, 2011 - 4:01 PM:

Buddahchuck wrote:
Nearly everything that is uttered is, to some degree, a rationalization of an act. People act, then they try desperately to invent reasons why they act that way.

So two points that encompass many others:

1) Every idea begins with some sort of rationalization.

2) Argumentation is part of the reasoning process that allows us to discern which ideas are useful to keep and how such ideas are useful.

Of course, these ideas entail that will is not entirely free, that human reason is first and foremost flawed and that morality is little more than a game we play. Interested?


Any argument that includes "always," "every," "never," and other 'total' terms is likely to be doomed. Just a suggestion.

Yes, we do a lot of rationalization, both in the sense of finding an excuse for something and in the sense of explaining events. Aren't we just programmed to do that? Not programmed by society so much as by the nature of our brains' intelligences which don't seem to like mysteries lying around all over the place. Some ideas probably begin as a rationalization. I doubt if the axioms of geometry or the current explanation for the decline of the Roman Empire fit that scheme.

I would totally endorse your position about argumentation, except that some people are too stupid or boneheaded to argue with.

I mostly agree with you about "these ideas entail that will is not entirely free, that human reason is first and foremost flawed and that morality is little more than a game we play" but I don't quite see how they follow from what precedes them.

Why do you think morality is a game, and what kind of game do you think it is? I mean, morality is a social convention, not something handed down from Mount Olympus or Pikes Peak, but how "gamey" do you think it is?
Buddahchuck
Bodhisatva
Avatar

Usergroup: Members
Joined: Jan 16, 2006

Total Topics: 39
Total Posts: 69
#5 - Quote - Permalink
Posted Jan 19, 2011 - 11:12 AM:

It just occurred to me that I ought to define rationalization, though I feel that we all have some sort of an understanding of what it constitutes. Rationalization, for the purposes of this thread (and feel free to argue the definition), is the use of reason to justify an act or an idea after such has been committed or conceived respectfully. In this definition, I feel it necessary to omit the derogatory connotation of the word (to suspend judgement) until we can see the consequences.

Mooks

mooks wrote:

Rationalization only occurs when we perceive our actions as being controversial or requiring of some explanation. Not every act is followed by rationalization; it is only if the individual feels like he has violated some moral or ethical code, making his action inappropriate.


Maybe it is just me, but while I can agree with requiring some explanation, as I feel that is more or less the same requisite for reasoning, I find it somewhat different to agree with only if the individual feels like he has violated some moral ethical code. Someone can ask me why I pick my ears, and upon consideration of the question, I answer that it helps me hear better. While it may be the case that I would have picked my ear as a mere reflex, my human dissatisfaction with a quandry could cause me to rationalize my response.

To present another example, which 180 Proof may have teased, when you presented paragraph, I had to consider what your criticisms were, assume that I was right, and then think of a reason why I might be right. Because I had to assume that I was right before I come-up with a reason why I am right, what I present is a rationalization. Of course, I don't want to be attacked for presenting mere rationalizations, but honestly, that is the process.

mook wrote:

I don't feel the need to explain myself after I do something; rather, I consider the consequences and rewards of the action before I make it


Really? I mean, I can only answer this point with bad philosophy, or rather, an appeal to experience. When you get home from work, you fully consider the rewards and consequences of having a beer everytime before you open it? When you see a girl you like, you consider the rewards and consequences before you go and talk to her. And then once you're making that decision, the decision as to which rewards are worth the consequences, how do you decide? Ultimately, the decision must arrive at some sort of feeling or intuition, and it is from these feelings and intuitions that our real decisions are made. These feelings tell me whether or not to kill the fat man or let the train go; they tell me agree with Mr. Smith or Mr. Brown; They tell me if The Athens is a different boat if I switch its oak planks for teak. Only after the assumption is made do I have the opportunity to invent a reason as to why it must be true.

mook wrote:

Also, what do you mean by science becomes limited by our imaginations?


Limited in the sense that we cannot use science to answer questions unless we can imagine what the answer might be, and not always, but for the use of the scientific method. Certain fields require our imaginations, astronomy being a great example, and physics even more so. If we can't imagine a quark, we don't know what we are looking for, or how to test it, or how to construct the scientific model that might explain it.

mook wrote:

Isn't it already understood that science carries that quality intrinsically? Science is nothing more than a manifestation of human experimentation. Following this logic, the scope of science is limited by the scope of the human brain. Every scientific discovery, everything in the science textbooks, was discovered & recorded by a human.


Yes! This is exactly the reason why I thought to include science, and it actually makes the points of the op even more important.

__________________________________

BitterCrank

Bittercrank wrote:

Any argument that includes "always," "every," "never," and other 'total' terms is likely to be doomed. Just a suggestion.


Well taken.

Bittercrank wrote:

Yes, we do a lot of rationalization, both in the sense of finding an excuse for something and in the sense of explaining events. Aren't we just programmed to do that? Not programmed by society so much as by the nature of our brains' intelligences which don't seem to like mysteries lying around all over the place. Some ideas probably begin as a rationalization


And do you not agree that is because we are programmed to do these things that we must be careful? I'm sure we are both familiar with scores and scores of literature citing that a major part of the human condition is involved with how we must deal with our animal nature, and we could review list upon list detailing the subject of man vs. nature and how even though we are a part of it, we must also rise above it to realize our true humanity. And once we finish with that subject, we may go on again discussing the language that has evolved from such a debate, be it intelligence or civilization. Religions have been designed to distinguish humans from the "animals" we see inhabiting our planet.

I am trying not to, here, place a value judgement on the worth of these rationalizations, but only to cite that through all our praise and love of wisdom, and even sometimes reason, we become complacent in the reasons we find failing to notice that many of these conclusions at which we arrive (or assume are true and then invent reasons for) are actually the product of some far more instinctual being that represents who we are as humans.

BitterCrank wrote:

I doubt if the axioms of geometry or the current explanation for the decline of the Roman Empire fit that scheme.


Well, I can easily talk myself into a circle, but lets deal with these a bit separately.

Axioms of Geometry

(NB If at any point you feel discouraged by this rationalization description of rationalization please merely say so and I will do my best to acquiesce)

One might say that Geometry is pure rationalization in the sense that Euclid's axioms assume things that cannot possibly exist. Perfect circles and straight lines, while conceptually exist, are seldom measurable, and if we are to "get-down-to-business", we can easily see that the finer our measurements, the further the problems with Geometry. Of course, these axioms are a very useful sort of rationalization, yet without them, we would not have a great portion of our mathematics. The reason they are rationalization, however, is that while we can see these right angles and straight lines, and two points, they are really hypothetical assumptions that allows us to operate in the realm of logic until we can arrive at the point at which we just say "well, close enough." Of course, the above is all assertion and I am a bit distraught at how trite it sounds, but I am hoping to get some sort of agreement or else I will have to derive more pointed justification.

The Fall of Rome

I suppose I could say that the fall of the Roman Empire took such a long time and happened in so many different places for many different reasons that it would be really hard to say what caused the fall of the Roman Empire, and so the attempt to provide such a reason can be nothing but rationalization for there is no solitary formula for conditions which meet the criteria of things that would make Empires the size of Rome fall In fact, it is just such a field as history that we can find the most rationalization in that we see something happen in history and then we make numerous attempts to explain it. So we could rationalize that Rome fell because of an increase tension on the borders brought-on by a westerly Hun invasion of Europe, an unstable economy, fragmentation of the Roman Diocese, the inability of the Emperor to maintain hegemonic influence on so many distant lands, the Schism between Eastern Roman Empire and the Heartland. In short, we can look at all of these reasons separately or together, but all of them certainly begin with some sort of explanation, or thesis, that is subsequently given reason.

BitterCrank wrote:

except that some people are too stupid or boneheaded to argue with.


My confusing two word answer accompanied by a written expression of my nodding head: Perception and Patience.

BitterCrank wrote:

I mostly agree with you about "these ideas entail that will is not entirely free, that human reason is first and foremost flawed and that morality is little more than a game we play" but I don't quite see how they follow from what precedes them.


Well, inherent in the idea that we rationalize quite a bit is the idea that we act first, ergo my talk about instinct above. In other words, if we are acting sans rason then our will is not one that is free, but rather one that is instilled in us by nature so we will naturally recoil at the smell of feces, drool at the sight of food, and gain an erection at the sight of something sexxy. And even further, we will smile at our own farts, go on about our tastes in food and through sheer boldness, pursue the things we find sexy. There is not so much a choice in these things, any more than we choose to feel happy or sad or hungry or tired or to pee. We could extend this apparent lack of free will to wonder what we actually do choose, for we cannot control the world outside, and if we cannot even control the urges of some Existential "Self", then what in this whole scheme of the world constitutes our will?

BitterCrank wrote:

Why do you think morality is a game, and what kind of game do you think it is? I mean, morality is a social convention, not something handed down from Mount Olympus or Pikes Peak, but how "gamey" do you think it is?


Remember that song, "Show and Tell....is just a game we play.... when we wanna lose". I sort of had that song in mind when talking about morality. To relate this to rationalization and games, it seems apparent to me that if we act instinctually, even when making moral decisions, then the whole topic of "Morality" becomes only an amusing notion, for oft in moral debates do we hear the words "but faced with the situation, you might do something different." It's almost an addendum to every moral dilemma proposed in philosophy. We might have these moral ideas, and grandiose notions, but would I really try to push the fat man off the bridge to stop the train? Would I jump myself? Or would I really just stand by and not do anything? And I have supreme doubts about whether or not we would go around dropping people into moral dilemmas just to test philosophy, in spite of how scientific it might be (One of the reasons "The Box" was a rather ridiculous movie).

Morality, therefore, amounts to little more than some mere form of amusement, a game, something to entertain our minds while we are otherwise unoccupied. While Morality allows for great conversations, it amounts to little more than a play in rationalization, who can assign the best reason for a given choice.

mooks
Newbie

Usergroup: Members
Joined: Jan 17, 2011

Total Topics: 1
Total Posts: 5
#6 - Quote - Permalink
Posted Jan 19, 2011 - 9:23 PM:

Interesting stuff...

Buddahchuck wrote:

Maybe it is just me, but while I can agree with requiring some explanation, as I feel that is more or less the same requisite for reasoning, I find it somewhat different to agree with only if the individual feels like he has violated some moral ethical code. Someone can ask me why I pick my ears, and upon consideration of the question, I answer that it helps me hear better. While it may be the case that I would have picked my ear as a mere reflex, my human dissatisfaction with a quandry could cause me to rationalize my response.


Point taken, but let me ask you a question. Isn't it possible that, in the same ear picking scenario, some people would not have human dissatisfaction with their quandry and just answer "My ear was itching." Is this still considered rationalizing? If the case were that they picked their ear as a mere reflex (it was itching and in reflex they picked their ear to alleviate the itching), aren't they giving a non-rationalized response by saying "It was itching". After all, aren't we assuming that rationlization is a deviation from the "truth"?

Buddahchuck wrote:

When you get home from work, you fully consider the rewards and consequences of having a beer everytime before you open it? When you see a girl you like, you consider the rewards and consequences before you go and talk to her. And then once you're making that decision, the decision as to which rewards are worth the consequences, how do you decide? Ultimately, the decision must arrive at some sort of feeling or intuition, and it is from these feelings and intuitions that our real decisions are made. These feelings tell me whether or not to kill the fat man or let the train go; they tell me agree with Mr. Smith or Mr. Brown; They tell me if The Athens is a different boat if I switch its oak planks for teak. Only after the assumption is made do I have the opportunity to invent a reason as to why it must be true.


I understand what you're getting at...but I still contend that every choice that we make is contingent on a basic, primal cost-benefit (or risk-reward, however you want to say it) mechanism. The amount of time that we spend thinking about a situation using this mechanism is directly correlated to our perceived "severity" or "seriousness" of the situation.

Take the beer example, for instance. When I get home from work, perhaps I feel thirsty. I realize that drinking a beer will quench my thirst. This is the first benefit that I identify to grabbing a beer. I also realize that I will have to walk all the way to my kitchen, open the fridge, fish around in the fridge, and remove the can (instead of perhaps just plopping down on the sofa). This is the first cost that I indentify. If the benefit outweights the cost (let's assume that it does), I go ahead and grab a beer and chug it down.

Now obviously, this decision happens very fast, maybe in less than a second. This is because the event is not "serious" enough to warrant a 3 hour cost-benefit analysis. Yet, even on a micro level, I must weigh the costs and the benefits to arrive at a decision. If I was considering "killing the fat man", I would probably spend longer than a second.

Buddahchuck wrote:
...imagine what the answer might be, and not always, but for the use of the scientific method. Certain fields require our imaginations, astronomy being a great example, and physics even more so. If we can't imagine a quark, we don't know what we are looking for, or how to test it, or how to construct the scientific model that might explain it.


I agree.
montclair
Initiate

Usergroup: Members
Joined: Dec 25, 2010

Total Topics: 0
Total Posts: 71
#7 - Quote - Permalink
Posted Jan 19, 2011 - 10:34 PM:

I agree that people often rationalize their behavior, but that indicates the lack of integrity (the match between beliefs and behavior). Integrity is hard to achieve and even harder to sustain, but the requirements of reflection are the very same requirements to avoid the evasive rationalization about which you write.

In regards to explaining our practices in the sciences and humanities, we might distinguish between scientific discovery and scientific justification. The discovery process involving the origin of ideas and solutions can be accidental, creative, contingent and quite untenable.

Yet the justification process is the hard work achieved through argumentation about whether our statements correspond to the phenomenon under discussion. And the justification process is post facto, since it's after the discovery.

Again, reflecting and exposing those thoughts in public forums, rather than rationalization, is the best means that we have at our disposal to justify, or reasonably support our claims. That we find rationalization pervasive is reason more to avoid it.
Buddahchuck
Bodhisatva
Avatar

Usergroup: Members
Joined: Jan 16, 2006

Total Topics: 39
Total Posts: 69
#8 - Quote - Permalink
Posted Jan 20, 2011 - 9:07 PM:

mooks wrote:

Point taken, but let me ask you a question. Isn't it possible that, in the same ear picking scenario, some people would not have human dissatisfaction with their quandry and just answer "My ear was itching." Is this still considered rationalizing? If the case were that they picked their ear as a mere reflex (it was itching and in reflex they picked their ear to alleviate the itching), aren't they giving a non-rationalized response by saying "It was itching". After all, aren't we assuming that rationlization is a deviation from the "truth"?


And point taken in turn. I won't claim to have knowledge of the reasoning process of everyone's mind, but I do propose the following as somewhat of a semantic clarification of rationalization and what it may mean. Perhaps, the person picking his/her ear, and lacking said "human dissatisfaction", answers, openly honestly and without invention, "I would not have thought of an answer had you not asked, but since you ask, it was itching." And the clarification of which I'm making is simply that thought/reason comes as a response rather than as a preliminary. Would he think of the answer at all absent the question asked. To this clarification please consider what follows.

So here, I present somewhat of a controversial take on rationalization. The question arises, though through my sheer will I admit, if the person, in he daily maundering self-discourse, asks himself, "Why did I scratch my ear?", then the subsequent answer must be rationalization as well, for never did he think of the answer prior to his thinking of the question. In other words, there exists, the type of rationalization that one commits to himself.

Certainly I sense objections, and not without my own do I share these concerns. What then, if rationalization is so broadly defined, could be reason and not be rationalization? We can continue to use the scratching ear example, for its merits are so meak as to be suitable for just about any example of reflex and reason. My initial response to such an objection is simply to say that the entirety of reason being some sort of rationalization is the exact point being made, but my sensibilities have always steered me away from such arguments, as I loath reading arguments for which definitions become the sole basis. Rather, I would say that for the given example, a man who feels an itch, ponders it, then uses reason to not scratch the ear, is, in fact acting based on reason, much as would someone who, knowing that it would only itch worse, avoids to scratch a mosquito bite, or poison ivy.

Herein, I see that my propositions previously prevented are slowly unraveling, thereby showing the benefit of argument. But it seems to me that this does not thwart the argument, but only demonstrate the tension between instinct and reason. There can be moments where we react without thought and subsequently ponder the action, but there also exist the potentialities in which someone uses reason prior to the action, or to "stay the hand", so to speak. And therein perhaps exists a truly moral choice, a truly rational choice. To put reason above the action and quell the inner beast, quell the instinct.

mooks wrote:

I understand what you're getting at...but I still contend that every choice that we make is contingent on a basic, primal cost-benefit (or risk-reward, however you want to say it) mechanism. The amount of time that we spend thinking about a situation using this mechanism is directly correlated to our perceived "severity" or "seriousness" of the situation.

Take the beer example, for instance. When I get home from work, perhaps I feel thirsty. I realize that drinking a beer will quench my thirst. This is the first benefit that I identify to grabbing a beer. I also realize that I will have to walk all the way to my kitchen, open the fridge, fish around in the fridge, and remove the can (instead of perhaps just plopping down on the sofa). This is the first cost that I indentify. If the benefit outweights the cost (let's assume that it does), I go ahead and grab a beer and chug it down.


Okay, but I'm not sure I even think about the sofa if I really want the beer.

mooks wrote:

Now obviously, this decision happens very fast, maybe in less than a second. This is because the event is not "serious" enough to warrant a 3 hour cost-benefit analysis. Yet, even on a micro level, I must weigh the costs and the benefits to arrive at a decision. If I was considering "killing the fat man", I would probably spend longer than a second.


Moral dilemmas seem the counter to what was stated above. When we present a moral dilemma which we are so capable of pondering before the act, for as we can ponder the pros and cons of each decision so far in advance, we still don't know the real worth of these evaluations until we are faced with the pressure of pondering these circumstances in the moment, and that is the greater problem presented. Either morality is this objective moral entity that exists in our soul and reveals itself through our actual actions, or it remains this vague entity that changes from person to person and illustrates what each person consists of, or it is a mere concoction of conception, ground and brewed and mixed into a potion which produces Mr. Hyde, and eventually Dr. Jekyl (i.e. two sides of the same fictional character). So, I am not so sure that the more serious idea requires more time to consider the action, for I propose that no matter how much forthought may preclude a certain situation, only the actual situation will dictate the decision being made and rationalization is all that will follow. In other words, the 3 hour cost-benefit analysis would only lead to the abstaining of decision.

BTW: reading Russian novelists leaves one's writing voice with a rather ridiculous air.
locked
Download thread as
  • 80/5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5



This thread is closed, so you cannot post a reply.