Monday, March 25, 2013

Our own prejudices

A statement made in an article I read today got me thinking. The gist of the statement was: "Humans like to think they are rational, but that rationality is an illusion". While I was reading the article, I found myself picking apart it's arguments, finding weakness, prejudice, grandiosity, self aggrandizement, and other self promoting argumentative tactics. (Here's the article, you can decide if I'm correct yourself). There's a kind of arrogance in using logic to prove human beings are illogical, I think.

The thing is, though, I agree with the author on this statement. We are illogical, yet self-delusional beings often incapable of knowing what is best for us. We have our goals, our ideas, or desires, passions, loyalties, and we want those loyalties to be logically infallible. Upon closer inspection, though, each of those loyalties turn out to have holes - logical contradictions, unsupported assumptions, untenable conclusions, the whole lot. We are, in a word, fallible.

But does this mean we need to submit ourselves to laws limiting our freedom of choice? Do we need a micro-managing government to stop us from hurting ourselves? I might say yes if we had some non-human, objective entity with far more data processing ability that we have, but such is not the case. Our lawmakers are human, too, subject to the same prejudices, cognitive biases, and delusions as the rest of the populace. What guarantee do we have that their decisions are truly based upon anything more than prejudice? None.

I'm not privy to the inner workings of the cost-benefit analysis done in the higher echelons of government, but I can't imagine the decisions are any more rational than those made on a more local scale. I'm no economist, though. Take my opinion with a grain of salt.

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