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Are Humans Really Rational?

Are Humans Really Rational?

Aristotle talked about rationality as the distinguishing feature of humans compared to other animals. However, the author argues that humans are more irrational than any other animals.

Imagination plays a crucial role in making most of our important decisions. Which college to choose? Go to grad school or not? Which job offer to take? And so on. You made all of these decisions by imagining yourself in one of the two situations and then imagining yourself in the other and then comparing the two.

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The Problem with Imagination

We have very little idea about just what situations we will find ourselves in. Our imagination is also influenced by films and Tv. 

When we make these grand decisions, we use imagination three times- we imagine what we imagine to be our future selves in imagined alternative scenarios. 

And none of these uses of imagination is particularly rational. Imagining our future selves is especially unreliable, as we systematically underestimate how much we will change in the future. And the scenarios we imagine ourselves in have very little to do with the actual situations we would find ourselves in.

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Is Imagination Bad?

It's not entirely bad because- 

  1. It is a bit difficult to tell what would be the rational decision in these scenarios. It is not really possible to imagine your future self because your future self will largely be formed in response to the decision that you’re about to make. So you are not in a position to rationally imagine your future self in order to make a decision, because your future self is a result of this very decision. 
  2. Irrationality may not be such a terrible thing. The irrationality of imagination may actually be a liberating mental facility.

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"Because I am nothing, I can imagine myself to be anything. If I were somebody, I wouldn’t be able to. An assistant book-keeper can imagine himself to be a Roman emperor; the King of England can’t do that, because the King of England has lost the ability in his dreams to be any other king than the one he is. His reality limits what he can feel."

FERNANDO PESSOA

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