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Define rationality

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Well, rationality is basically the identification of reality-as-reality, and acting according to the facts of reality - and that's a pretty loaded sentence, in that it means understanding what is uniquely human about man's process of identification (concept-formation included), and how he perceives and reacts in accordance with the facts of reality.

The 'rational animal', means that man is a creature volitionally capable of identifying all the facts of reality available to him and applying them within a certain context, towards a certain task. A man's actual acting on his nature, is what we would call the measure of his rationality.

To be rational, is to be human. Rationality is the defining characteristic of man, the one which only he holds, which separates him from all other living (and non-living) entities. It means, using one's rational faculty.

Edited by Tenure
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Here are some references:

Reason is the faculty that identifies and integrates the material provided by man's senses. ... ...
The virtue of Rationality means the recognition and and acceptance of reason as one's only source of knowledge, one's only judge of values and one's only guide to action. ... ...
Logic is the art or skill of non-contradictory identification... ...
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Here are some references:

To expand on softwareNerd's reference here is more from "The Objectivist Ethics" which is chapter one of The Virtue of Selfishness:

"Value is that which one acts to gain and/or keep -- virtue is the act by which one gains and/or keeps it.

[...]

Rationality is man's basic virtue, the source of all his other virtues.

[...]

The virtue of Rationality means the recognition and acceptance of reason as one's only source of knowledge, one's only judge of values and one's only guide to action. It means one's total commitment to a state of full, conscious awareness, to the maintenance of a full mental focus in all issues, in all choices, in all of one's waking hours. It means a commitment to the fullest perception of reality within one's power and to the constant, active expansion of one's perception, i.e., of one's knowledge. It means a commitment to the reality of one's own existence, i.e., to the principle that all of one's goals, values and actions take place in reality and, therefore, that one must never place any vlaue or consideration whatsoever above one's perception of reality. It means a commitment to the principle that all of one's convictions, values, goals, desires and actions must be based on, derived from, chosen and validated by a process of thought [...]"

Ayn Rand then goes on to define other virtues as aspects of rationality.

You really should buy The Virtue of Selfishness it is excellent. "The Objectivist Ethics" is alone worth the price and one of the most brilliant pieces of writing in the history of man.

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The 'rational animal', means that man is a creature volitionally capable of identifying all the facts of reality available to him and applying them within a certain context, towards a certain task. A man's actual acting on his nature, is what we would call the measure of his rationality.
Thanks Tenure. That makes a lot of sense. I think the first sentence in the above is very close to an actual definition: applying the facts of reality towards a certain goal.

But, the next sentence is saying something like: Rationality is man's nature and a man acting according to his nature is a rational man. This is clearly a circular definition.

Here are some references:
Once again, that is a circular definition. A more fundamenal question would be Define reason. Define what it means to be a rational man (apart from the fact that he is acting according to reason, which is obvious).

You really should buy The Virtue of Selfishness it is excellent. "The Objectivist Ethics" is alone worth the price and one of the most brilliant pieces of writing in the history of man.
I do have the book.
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Thanks Tenure. That makes a lot of sense. I think the first sentence in the above is very close to an actual definition: applying the facts of reality towards a certain goal.

But, the next sentence is saying something like: Rationality is man's nature and a man acting according to his nature is a rational man. This is clearly a circular definition.

Rationality is not man's nature. Man's nature is that of a rational animal - he has the power of volition and the power to form concepts, but he also has just as much choice not to. A man acting accordance with his nature is being rational, because man's nature is that of a rational animal. That's no more a circular argument than saying a dog is behaving like a dog, because it uses its enhanced nose receptors to sniff things out, and wags it's tail and barks. If it started squarking and flying around the room, I would say it is acting in a non-canine way.

Similarly, a man not acting rationally is an irrational man. I didn't define rationality in accordance to what a man is, but in accordance to what a man does. Man is a rational animal - someone who acts qua man is someone who is acting rationally, simply by definition of words.

Once again, that is a circular definition. A more fundamenal question would be Define reason. Define what it means to be a rational man (apart from the fact that he is acting according to reason, which is obvious).

That man is a rational animal, which means holding the conceptual, reasoning faculty is not obvious. That people think 'to reason' and 'to be rational' are directly synonymous is a huge error in the usage of these words.

Man = rational animal = holding a volitional, conceptual faculty - an implicit part of which is reasoning. Would you like a further definition from this, or do we need to go over this first step further? (I don't mean this disparagingly, but honestly).

Edited by Tenure
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Rationality is not man's nature. Man's nature is that of a rational animal - he has the power of volition and the power to form concepts, but he also has just as much choice not to. A man acting accordance with his nature is being rational, because man's nature is that of a rational animal. That's no more a circular argument than saying a dog is behaving like a dog, because it uses its enhanced nose receptors to sniff things out, and wags it's tail and barks. If it started squarking and flying around the room, I would say it is acting in a non-canine way.
But, the example of the dog can be related to biological factors. Are you saying being rational is a biological "part" of man?

That people think 'to reason' and 'to be rational' are directly synonymous is a huge error in the usage of these words.
Well, according to an online dictionary, "Rational means having the ability to reason".

I believe Aristotle (can he be considered as "authoritative"?) has a good definition of reason.

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But, the example of the dog can be related to biological factors. Are you saying being rational is a biological "part" of man?

Yes - man's ability to be rational and to think conceptually is a biological characteristic of man. What does biological mean? It means that which is conducive to living. To look at it etymologically (and Odden, feel free to correct me), we have 'Bio' meaning life, and 'logic' meaning without contradiction - i.e. that which is not contradictory to living; in positive terms: that which lives or is conducive to living.

What characteristic of man is most defining, as being conducive to his living? His mind. What faculty of it? His sensory input? His perceptual integrations? No - his conceptual integrations and his freedom to think, or not to think (a necessary component of thinking, being to think rationally - i.e. by reason; i.e. by a process of observing the facts of reality, and forming a logical judgement so as to attain the values which support one's life.

Well, according to an online dictionary, "Rational means having the ability to reason".

I believe Aristotle (can he be considered as "authoritative"?) has a good definition of reason.

My point was not that rationality doesn't imply reasoning, but that 'to be rational' and 'to reason' are not the same thing, otherwise we would not have two words. This definition makes the same mistake, of ignoring the full context of what 'rational' means, as a characteristic of man. Needless to say, it's one of those words (like selfish, value, reality, concept, etc.) of which Ayn Rand went into great detail to correct the definition.

However, people muddle the two and aren't often clear in what they mean, so that if you said, "Man is a being who holds the ability to reason", whilst true, it isn't the most fundamental description of man. It leads to people forming a dichotomy between man's mind, and reality, between the abstractions man is inherently able to create, through reasoning, and the reality from which they are abstracted.

'Rationality' is the bridge between man's reasoning and the real world, because it describes the process by which man looks at the real world, and using his reasoning, forms abstractions and not just abstractions for the sake of abstractions, but for the sake of pursuing some value. All those things are integrated into a logical system: Reality, Abstraction and Value - to produce what we call, 'rationality' - and it is that ability to be rational, which is the standard by which we judge men as men.

Incidentally, the reason we say he is 'a rational animal' and not 'an animal of rationality', is because of his volition and his choice to be rational or to suspend the effort - and die.

Edited by Tenure
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But, the example of the dog can be related to biological factors. Are you saying being rational is a biological "part" of man?

For genetic reasons we grow brains big enough and complex enough to accomplish abstraction and reason. So the answer to your question is yes, in the purely genetic/biological context. To describe reason and rationality functionally and behaviorally does not require genetics. People have been describing reason well enough thousands of years before genes were discovered

Bob Kolker

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