Rationality against irrationality - History, philosophy...

Rationality versus irrationality

Understanding the structure of psychological theory is largely associated with the problem of the rationality of knowledge and, accordingly, its irrationality. Unfortunately, often the problem of rationality is interpreted on the basis of some speculative assumptions, not related to understanding the status of sciences, including psychology. Indicative in this sense, for example, the position of M. Weber, who distinguished four types of behavior:

goal-rational (if the goal is set in accordance with external circumstances);

the value-rational, based on the belief in the unconditional aesthetic, religious or any other component of the value of a particular behavior as such, no matter what it leads to;

affective - conditioned by the affect or emotional state of the individual;

Traditional - based on a long habit.

The weakness of M. Weber's position is determined by the fact that his list of types of behaviors is held irrespective of the conceptual system of axiological sciences, including psychology. It seems to him that he operates with obvious data, but there is a clear misconception - even the thinker of the scale of M. Weber is not able to get rid of the principle of theoretical relativity of knowledge.

We will try to clarify the situation in question. Decisive, in our opinion, are two circumstances. Goals do not appear out of nowhere. They are developed on the basis of values. Why do people set the same or different goals? Because they realize the same or different values. The goal is the implementation of principles with their indispensable value content. In the actions of people, this law knows no exceptions. So, firstly, it is inadmissible to ignore the value-purpose nature of the concepts of any axiological science, including psychology. Secondly, one must not lose sight of the fact that the value concept, or simply value, acts as a fusion ("product") of thoughts and feelings, including emotions and affects.

Value = thought X feelings. People do not have thoughts without feelings or feelings completely freed from thought. Feelings and thoughts differ only in terms of their degree of mental development.

Let's return to M. Weber's argument. He separated the goals from values, the latter he attributed to such areas in science as science, aesthetics, religion, etc. Feelings Weber separated from the thoughts, so there appeared purely affective behavior. Epithet rational Weber correlated with thoughts, but not with affects and habits. Therefore, in his typology of social action, two kinds of behavior turn out to be irrational.

In fact, all four types of behavior listed by Weber, strictly speaking, are value-targeted. Values, and hence goals, can be assimilated by the subject due to his immersion in tradition, but from this they do not cease to be elements of the theory. Value can acquire an affective character, but at the same time it remains a value, albeit a peculiar one.

Of particular note is the term rational (from Latin rado - calculation, some sequence of actions leading to the achievement of the goal). Where there is value, there is both a goal and a calculation (perhaps very elementary or even very degenerate, as in the case of affects, for example), and hence rationality. Any science is conceptual, and therefore, rational in the sense indicated above. Rationality is a continuation of conceptuality, including science. It can and, moreover, should be evaluated. Two such quantitative estimates are the rational and irrational & quot ;. The difference between them is purely quantitative, not qualitative. And this means that the opposition of the rational to the irrational is untenable. They are both conceptual. Many researchers talk about irrationalism very carefree. As a rule, it seems to them that they bring in the "dry", rationalized science the freshness of feelings and emotions. But who says that theories and concepts are lifeless? Only those who do not know the richness of the sciences.

Psychologists who turned to the study of the phenomenon of rationality, proceeded from a certain methodological position. On the one hand, they stated certain features of the theories, in particular, the requirement to observe the laws of logic, and in the case of axiological sciences, for example the economy, the need to maximize some usefulness. On the other hand, psychologists turned to empirical research, trying to find the answer to the question: "How do people really think and do things?" The variations observed by psychologists convinced many of them that people do not necessarily maximize utility.

F. Simon, author of the concept of bounded rationality , put forward on behalf of psychology the slogan: "Satisfaction versus maximization." The meaning of his argument is that the requirement of maximizing utility turns out to be too "hard", not appropriate to reality. Much more realistic is the provision according to which the subjects will strive to achieve their aspirations.

Numerous researchers have put forward a huge number of arguments in favor of the concept of limited rationality: the decision-maker does not possess all the information, and the one who possesses it is not able to process it exhaustively; he inevitably makes mistakes, is guided by habits and unintelligible motives, feels antipathy towards goal-setting and the choice of the best state; his individual preferences are unstable and, moreover, are not consistent with social norms, and they must also be taken into account, etc. and the like.

As for Simon, he defended the ideals of rationalism in his own way. In this connection, where Becker spoke of irrationalism, he preferred to use the term "limited rationality". This term is partly appropriate. If desired, you can introduce gradations of conceptuality, distinguishing, for example, maximum, limited and minimal rationality, equating the latter with irrationality. Our objection is the opposition of satisfaction with the principles of maximizing individual values ​​or their combinations.

F. Simon noted that the concept of "satisfaction" does not play any role in classical economic theory, whereas in psychology, the theory of motivation, it is one of the most important. According to most psychological theories, the motivation for action comes from unfulfilled aspirations (from English, drives ) and disappears after satisfying them. Moreover, the conditions for the onset of satisfaction are not immutable, but are determined by the level of aspirations, which can be higher or lower depending on life experience. If we want to explain behavior on the basis of this theory, we must believe that the goal of the firm is not to maximize, but to achieve a certain level of profit, to retain a certain market share and a certain level of sales. Firms will tend to achieve satisfaction rather than maximization & quot ;. In our opinion, this statement is erroneous.

All values, including satisfaction, are present in certain axiological theories. A psychological subject is not devoid of feelings and emotions, including feelings of satisfaction or dissatisfaction. All feelings and emotions are involved in the process of conceptual transduction. This rule applies fully to both psychology and the economy. Psychologists who study the problem of rationality open up non-trivial ways of making people decisions. The relevance of such studies, for which, as is known, G. Simon and D. Canneman were quite deservedly awarded the Nobel Prizes, there is no doubt. But, which is also extremely important, these studies do not refute the conceptual status of axiological sciences with their maximization principles. Insufficiently developed schemes of conceptualization receive their interpretation in the final analysis when they are interpreted from the standpoint of the most developed theories. In any science there are series of theories. If desired, they can be compared with estimates of conceptual maturity. This fully applies to psychological theories. Less advanced theories do not abolish the content of the science to which they belong. As for heuristic methods, they also do not go beyond theories. Arguing about the principle of maximization and striving for a universal scheme for evaluating psychological theories, Simon did not take into account the need for personal representation. What he called only satisfactory, for people who achieve their goals, serves as a maximum.

When discussing the confrontation between rational and irrational knowledge, the question of implicit knowledge, the concept of which was developed by the English philosopher M. Polani, is often raised. Unlike explicit, implicit (latent) knowledge is not articulated in the language and is embodied in skills, practical skill or in the stereotypes of culture. M. Polanyi's famous aphorism reads: "We can know more than we can say." Let's explain the essence of the phenomenon of implicit knowledge by the example of a coach-athlete. A jumping high athlete jumps higher, but knows more about the coach. How to explain this correlation of practical skills and knowledge? And is it amenable to an explanation at all?

The paradox seems to be that the athlete, yielding to the coach in the amount of actual knowledge, jumps above it. In this regard, it is proposed to consider that the athlete also has some amount of latent knowledge. There is a clear error in reasoning. The difference in the skills of an athlete and a coach is not due to a different volume of knowledge, but their unequal physiological conditions. The coach teaches the athlete. It is he who informs him of the additional amount of knowledge that the athlete did not previously have, neither in latent, nor in clarified (explicit) form. New knowledge is acquired, and not extracted from a certain cache. The unreasonable error of M. Polanyi is that he interprets the new knowledge as already existed earlier. Each person has a certain amount of knowledge, which he can represent either words, or action, or mental acts. A clever athlete will not argue that he jumps above his coach insofar as he surpasses him in terms of practical knowledge. It will be expressed differently: if I knew as much as my coach knows, then with my physical data I would jump even higher.

Supporters of irrationalism tend to propagate various mysterious sources of knowledge that are not subject to science, often recall, for example, about intuition or emotions. However, up to now, all relevant phenomena have been perfectly explained scientifically. Intuition does not arise from nowhere, it is the result of many years of effort. Thus, DI Mendeleyev's invention of the periodic system of chemical elements, supposedly coming to him in a dream, actually stretched him for two decades. As for emotions, they are always contextual to some theoretical concepts and are by no means accidental.

In their life activity, people demonstrate different stages of their conceptual maturity. In this connection, it is reasonable to introduce a continuum of estimates. In this case, it becomes obvious that the so-called irrational does not exist at all. The rational/irrational dilemma is overcome.


1. There are more and less developed forms of representation of the psychological theory.

2. There are no such actual forms of psychological knowledge that would be of a non-conceptual nature.

3. In axiological sciences, including in psychology, there is no alternative to the principle of optimization of either individual values ​​or their combinations.

4. Irrational, as inaccessible to conceptual analysis, does not exist.

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