Saturday, March 12, 2011

On Rationality

I've heard it said many a time that the best choice is a rational one. A person does simple cost - benefit analysis to make the best decision, no emotions included. Just simple decision-making.

Let me use a few examples. Prison is a great one to start with. A person commits a crime. What should we do? Put him in prison. Rational choice. Keep him away from society, benefit to society, cost to him.

Second example. Do we dam a river, or do we leave it alone? There's benefit to society by acquiring clean energy, and the cost is small to nature. Creatures can adapt.

Now. Let's just pretend that emotions are equally valid in decision-making. Let's go through those examples one more time.

Crime. The person who committed the crime is actually a person. They have a history, they have a family. They probably need to understand what they did was wrong, and WHY it was wrong. Yet, instead of working these things out, we throw them away into some prison cell with like-minded criminals in the hopes that our person gets better. Great idea Einstein. I'd like to see it actually work.

The Aboriginal community used to take criminals and victims and sit them down together amongst a community and with the victim and resolve their disputes. They wouldn't let either party leave until the dispute had been resolved, the criminal repented of her or his actions and showed genuine sadness for what he or she had done. It focused on the relational level of the crime, rather than on justice. Rather than dishing out punishments for what had been done, it emphasized restoring the hurt and the damage that the crime caused, and ultimately finding repentance from the criminal and resolving her or his inner problems that led them to the action.

Second situation. We have a river that is free, that represents the untouched beauty of nature. Something that is free of the social constructs of man, and rather, is pure... wildness. Like the world as it is supposed to be. We've ignored these emotions in our interactions with nature. In our strive to pursue the rational decision, we've left out the emotional attachment that people feel to the woods, to the river, to nature inn its pure untouched state. This is IMPORTANT!

Don't forget that emotions mean something. God gave them to us for a reason. Sometimes the most irrational thing to do is to forget about them. Decisions only make sense when we incorporate this very human part of ourselves into decisions.

Some might say it's an extension of male patriarchy to discount more feminine emotions and dictate what counts as valid in decision-making. I guess... well, I guess it's up to you to decide! Either way, we have a problem of the dominant view of decision-making as non-emotional. Let's change our own views first.

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