(This is a guest post by Jake Quilty-Dunn, replying to my reply to his original post on on rationalization and (ir)rationality. 1000 words; 5 minute read.)
Thanks very much to Kevin for inviting me to defend my comparatively gloomy picture of human nature on this blog, and for continuing the conversation with his thoughtful reply.
(1000 words; 5 minute read.)
Here are a few thoughts I had after reading Jake Quilty-Dunn’s excellent guest post, in which he makes the case for the irrationality of rationalization (thanks Jake!). I’ll jump right in, so make sure you take a look at his piece before reading this one.
This is a guest post from Jake Quilty-Dunn (Oxford / Washington University), who has an interestingly different take on the question of rationality than I do. This post is based on a larger project; check out the full paper here.
(2500 words; 12 minute read.)
Is it really possible that people tend to be rational?
On the one hand, Kevin and others who favor “rational analysis” (including Anderson, Marr, and leading figures in the recent surge of Bayesian cognitive science) have made the theoretical point that the mind evolved to solve problems. Looking at how well it solves those problems—in perception, motor control, language acquisition, sentence parsing, and elsewhere—it’s hard not to be impressed. You might then extrapolate to the acquisition and updating of beliefs and suppose those processes ought to be optimal as well.
On the other hand, many of us would like simply to point to our experience with other human beings (and, in moments of brutal honesty, with ourselves). That experience seems on its face to reveal a litany of biases and irrational reactions to circumstances, generating not only petty personal problems but even larger social ills.