Pure rationality is a myth we should not aspire to

I think it would be very foolish not to take the irrational seriously. Jeanette Winterson

 

Be rational, people say as if –

  1. It’s (fully) possible
  2. The counterpart is unhealthy.

In reality –

  1. We all behave on a continuum from rational to irrational
  2. Those who put irrationality down are just as susceptible to it as those they criticise
  3. Knowing we are irrational will not stop us being irrational
  4. Rationality is not good or bad, nor is irrationality.

None of this absolves us from responsibility for our decisions or suggests we can’t improve awareness or emotional IQ. But it does challenge the idea that rationality is an endpoint or that rational thinking leads to rational or desirable behaviour.

Why the focus on rationality?

There are many reasons we elevate rationality, including – (more…)

 

How to accept diversity

How do we —

  1. Respect grassroots views without being held hostage to ignorance?
  2. Privilege a standpoint without slipping into elitism about whose views count?
  3. Accept the right for people to have a view if that view seems damaging?
  4. Value knowledge while accepting that what was once true we now know to be false but that creativity & scientific method matter.
  5. Become aware of, let alone challenge, personal assumptions, ideas, beliefs?

Sometimes we do so easily and at others with great difficulty.

But in relation to each of the five above we can —

  1. Accept we have prejudices we’re not aware of — desire to become more conscious — withstand the pressure to agree because it’s easier without condemning people for not sharing our views.
  2.   Place being humane above all else — drop the need to be right or better — admit how gut wrenching it feels when we’re wrong but also how humbling & human it makes us.
  3.  Say no. (“NO”)
  4.  Value knowledge without deifying it — remember that ideas predate data — value scientific method, strive for the right questions and measures but do not let the limit of current measures set the boundaries for your thinking — refuse to make experts into gods but value genuine expertise — accept the right for people to have a view, but be discerning about the quality of information behind them (not all views are equally well informed).
  5. Be insatiably curious — read constantly including from opposing views — the established and from the edges — process that through writing, painting, reflecting, talking, walking or what works for you — get external inputs without needing to accept or reject them — be willing to tolerate discomfort.

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Why you should doubt yourself

Therefore certainty is not only something of no use but is also in fact damaging, if we value reliability. Carlo Rovelli

We seem so desperate to know things ‘for certain’.

I think there are many reasons why.

At the nice end, ‘knowing’ is an anchor that gives us a sense of ground, even if it’s illusory. We need that. It helps us navigate ambiguity and provided we’re open to reassessing ideas as more evidence emerges or as we’re impacted by experience that’s okay.

The problem is when we attach to being certain or confuse our sense of self with being right. That’s one of the more destructive sides of being human. We need to know, to be right and then: to assert that rightness.

You see it in relationships where people who loved each other wake up one day to find that they have dug trenches around that need and created a no-man’s land instead of a life between them.

Or on the contrary, when we cling to an earlier idea about the other, who or what they should be (our idea of them really) refusing to recognize that we, or they, or circumstances, have changed.

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4 tips for being a ‘learner’ not a ‘mistake-avoider’

We learn by failing, iff failing means not getting things right all of the time.

Whether it’s those first steps, our running style or scientific discoveries that come only after trials are ditched and techniques refined, learning is process.

We are not built for perfection.

Experiments have conclusively shown that we are hard-wired to think in ways that may help us survive, but are innately flawed and that we shape realities on shaky foundations and false evidence as visual illusions show.

Even where there are no apparent flaws, we are born into cultures that define value relative to colour, creed and sex (to name but a few) and so a healthy, thinking wo/man can as easily become an enemy of the state if the circumstances allow.

So why I ask myself, has perfection become an acceptable goal? And why do we let it define our value?

We want the perfect body, partner, boss or job, a Vogue house, ideal parents, faultless kids, it seems there’s no end to our list (or lust) to achieve it.

(more…)

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