The Rational Mind

Is our thinking rational?

Many philosophers of  past and present have pondered on The Rational Mind. They’ve wanted to know what it is. Amongst these ponderings there’s talk of reason and logic and I could of course get into all manner of intellectual debate over this subject. Instead, I’d rather cut through all the unnecessary, and seek to define what exactly a rational mind is, how to spot it in others, and most importantly, find it for ourselves. 

The assumption can be that we are dealing with a rational mind

For many years I made the mistake of making this assumption. When working as an analyst – applying logic and reason (of a different kind) to help reframe the problems of others – this assumption has often been my undoing. For example, is it rational to fear death? It’s more likely the case that we fear the unknown rather than death. To help with our fear we can apply logic to this and seek to compare death to simply being unconscious; totally unaware. Even so we still fear it. Irrational. 

And what about fearing the death of a loved one? Why would we fear this? Once again it’s not necessarily death we fear but loss. We fear the suffering and pain we would endure at the loss of a loved one. Their suffering is over, so fearing their actual death is illogical, and not our true fear anyway. We say things like: they had so much to live for; a whole life ahead of them. This compounds our suffering through creating an imagined future. We don’t actually know they had a future at all but we create one anyway. Is this rational? Is it rational to add to our suffering through creating an illusion?  

What stops us building large new ‘hospitals’ to put all the sick and dying people in? Is this not what the Chinese have done?

It could be said that a rational mind would be dealing with the coronavirus outbreak rather differently. Rather than destroying the economy and shattering the lives of millions, would it not have been sensible to ‘shield’ the vulnerable only, and then let the virus run its course? 

I can’t claim to know all the ins and outs of this, however, I do know that morality isn’t always the rational approach. It might feel like the right thing to do when we protect the vulnerable and dependent and yet how is it we apply different rules when it comes to a beloved pet? 

An animal that is seen to be suffering will be destroyed by its owner. This is seen as kindness. I can tell you for a certain fact that when the balance between suffering, pain and pleasure, has swung too far to the left, I’ll be calling it a day. Perhaps we can see the birth of organisations such as Dignitas as being driven by the kind of reason I speak of.

So reason must be about applying understandings and solutions that are likely to lessen suffering and pain. Of course we want to keep the vulnerable alive, and yet, restricting the movements of millions and destroying the economy – and businesses people have potentially spent a lifetime building – surely only adds to our suffering. 

Is it not the case that the needs of many outweigh the needs of the few? Or am I now at risk of sounding callous? But must we all suffer for the suffering of others? Should I be unlucky enough to contract covid-19, and I die as a consequence of my body being unable to fight it off, is this not the natural scheme of things? Is it right that we humans should seek to go against this? 

Now of course your inbuilt sense of right and wrong is potentially kicking in and you’re rejecting these words as nonsense, however, why do you hold such morality? Where does this originate? Is fear or love at its root? All interesting questions.

When it comes to spotting the rational mind perhaps we need to understand what is meant by irrational

Behaviour that adds to suffering must fit into this category. For example, it’s certainly irrational to seek the advice of an experienced professional and then to either simply ignore it, or reject it outright. We will never carry out sound and well reasoned advice whilst we continue to hold on to irrational thinking. 

One of the main reasons for irrational behaviour is an absence of conscious awareness. When our unconscious mind is seeking one outcome, whilst we consciously seek another, irrational behaviour is the result. It’s not until we’re able to raise our awareness are we able to discover the irrationality of our behaviour. The problem we face now though is the tendency for the mind to (irrationally) avoid change. A Catch 22 situation for sure.

Finding the rational mind for ourselves comes as a result of bucking the mind’s tendency to avoid self-examination and change. Once we’ve raised our awareness, through the examination of ourselves and others, we get closer to the kind of thinking that could be considered rational. You may find yourself feeling quite alone at times though, because it would certainly seem – that the rational mind – is a bit of a rarity.  

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