Friday, 15 August 2008

Irrational bliss??

. Interesting piece on Liberal Conspiracy by Chris Dillow. He suggests that in fighting for/attaining freedom irrationality has it's place alongside rationality. This is, of course, true; to be irrational sometimes is human nature and it has played a progressive role too in humanities development. This is especially true when it comes to challenging established orthodoxies. Often any challenges to the established order are dubbed 'irrational' and even 'insane'.

However, for some the freedom to be irrational is part of the essence of freedom itself; others need a structure around which to build their lives so naturally they baulk against this suggestion. In Dillow's article he says that; "religious belief is correlated with greater happiness, more law-abiding behaviour and support (pdf) for markets." Obviously this is the case because these people favour the structured approach. Irrational believers are less likely to be sure of their happiness and freedom and maybe this reflects in any survey results.

Rationality can become just as 'God-like' as anything that spews forth from various religious texts. Making this so is just as dangerous as the often irrational prejudice generated by irrational religious beliefs. It can generate prejudice itself and often leads to some politically very dark places. Ideologies by their very nature often mix the two things; especially extremist ones. If you look at Nazism especially there is clear evidence of pseudo-science being mixed with outlandish beliefs in paranormal phenomena. Stalinist Communism provides numerous examples of god-building; the 'cult of Lenin' being one that springs to mind.

Dillow draws a line between two forms of rationality; belief rationality and instrumental rationality. I would draw a line between forms of irrationality; between those who believe in out-and-out chaos for it's own sake and those who believe that the way to advance freedom is to constantly challenge and push it's horizons forward through that challenge. A blurring of the lines between the different forms can occur as with the different forms of rational belief. I would count myself in the latter group of 'irrational believers'.

I think Dillow is wrong to see the counter-position as being between different kinds of rationality. The real question is how the two blend and intermix to allow us to be constantly 'champing at the bit'; pushing freedom forward.

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