Dividing lines

I would like to very obnoxiously propose that there is a dividing line between rationality and irrationality. The very idea is troubling and truly arrogant, but I think it is existent anyway. To get it out in the open right now, I would also like to say that what I propose is not grounded in scientific evidence. In fact, this psychology is based off of my pure speculation and if you are troubled by my mistrust of trained psychologists feel free to diagnose me.

The spectrum of rationality and irrationality proves quite useful in looking at the individual players of philosophical discourse, political commentary, and strategy. Note I am not talking about emotions or dealing with daily trivialities (that, in fact, are not so trivial at all – stress management, organizational skills, etc.). Those matters are a different topic altogether although still having to do with rationality and irrationality.

To satisfy the academic prose of confusing verbiage, I will use the word “logic” interchangeably with “rationality” and “feeling” interchangeably with “irrationality”. This is not to say that feeling is inferior – logic is often too impersonal– as irrational feelings have a very important role in every subject, rational ones included. If the pretentious literary critic (who for some strange reason tends to appreciate what rhetorical dogma criticizes) is not yet satisfied, the passive tense will be used as pleased.

Now that the necessary asides have been made (Attention Deficit Disorder, anyone?), onto the topic. Most people that deal with intelligentsia of any field are extremely prone to irrational bias and sporadic feeling-based opinions. In fact, it’s so serious for some that I can state an opinion only for the other to misconstrue my opinion to make it a straw man and assault it in irrational harangue without even realizing it.

For example, I once mischievously called out someone for stating that “There’s no proof 100% for or against the bible”. Being who I am, I inquired the confident know-it-all on her knowledge of Early Christian History. She admitted to know very little, and in a regrettably biting tone I said her assertion was far too daring. Her response, verbatim:

Really? So you’re saying that there’s some magical paper or study that proves every claim in the bible? That the catholic church didn’t change anything? That he walked no water? Did someone take sampler from the water and see jesus toast in it?

I had never said a thing of what she said I had said. I don’t know where she got it from and how she immediately became so accusative. She probably also forgot momentarily that I was not Christian and an avid promoter of Biblical criticism (the study of the evolution of Biblical manuscripts, not criticizing the Bible, mind you). Her rhetorical questions were passionate and illogical, focused entirely on feelings and not on rationality. Frankly, they made no sense. And yet, for the better part of the conversation, she saw nothing wrong with it.

Another friend of mine is as fickle as the autumn sky. It is at one point he is a Communist (what that means to him a whole other matter), and at another a die-hard American patriot. On the occasion, he parades himself as a champion of the social left, and on other occasions he is sharply critical of illegal immigration. No matter what his philosophy of the hour is, however, my admirably intelligent friend (truly, he is quite knowledgeable) is quick to temper and ill manner out of bursts of sudden passion.

These irrational tendencies are troublesome disturbances to good debate. While it is true that emotion is necessary in discourse and political involvement (after all, what would be the point otherwise?), having it threaten one’s rationality is worrying. Far too often we are so gripped on what we have to say that we are not listening to the other. We are so caught up in our own passions that we can’t listen to what the other is actually saying, not what we make it out to be. If we’re to be mature about things, we have to be rational: we have to hear the person for what they have to say and think about it using that darn old thing called logic. How’s that for egoism?