This article is based on Steven Pinker “The Four Horsemen of Irrationality”. It doesn’t take a lot to realize that despite the great preaching of positivism, modernly we are living in a society that is very much hostile; this of course is the result of not understanding the shadow. It seems it is hard for people to accept that both shadow and healthy ego or “core personality” both spring forth from the same source and both are very much necessary. In feeding one extreme or another, we lose balance; for living within an extreme is not the same thing as doing the work require to integrate both sides. Somehow too many people think they can bypass the main work; no different than if a babe wanted to run, first he or she must learn to walk and get comfortable with the necessary muscles.
Extreme positions, passive aggressiveness (which by the way can be more detrimental than outright aggression), too many bad “news”, are powering a lack of appropriate social coexistence.
Reality is what we see in the world is only a reflection of what we have put in, which means, it is the result of our inability to live in balance–instead most of society lives swinging from one extreme of the pendulum to the other. According to Steven Pinker, the answer for our horrendous behavior, could lie in his theory of the 4 horsemen of irrationality. A theory based on human beings losing the ability to reflect, to empathize and be receptive to new ideas, approaches and perspectives. At present, there are too many engrossed and even conflicting minds.
What exactly is irrationality? We could define it as that behavior lacking lucidity and cognitive efficiency.
Dr. John Eigenauer, a professor of philosophy at Taft College in California, wrote an article a few years ago on the subject of irrationality. According to him, “It is true that more and more behaviors lacking a rational, balanced and analytical mental competence are evident. However, the problem of irrationality is exacerbated by the fact that people are not aware that they are acting in this way. The problem lies in the number of biases ingrained in our minds.”
According to Steven Pinker, the mistakes we make are:
Motivated reasoning: rejecting logical reasoning because conclusions do not conform to our desires.
The bias of one’s own team: only ideas and thoughts that are in tune with one’s own ideologies are accepted. It doesn’t matter if something has greater validity or veracity, it only matters what fits my beliefs (even if they are irrational).
Mythological mentality: to give validity to ideas not because they are true and logical, but because they conform to one’s own moral, religious or political ideology narratives.
The lack of rationality, says Steven Pinker, is a crisis that should be addressed as soon as possible. It makes no sense to point out that “the human being is irrational by nature”, because it is not true. We understand the laws of nature and astronomy, we have gained in longevity and quality of life thanks to advances in medicine–we can be logical, perhaps where we are failing is integrating such logic with our holistic side, for we are not machines. We are beings with the capacity to create a better society, as we have demonstrated time and time again whenever we had to dig ourselves out of a deep hole or dark ages. Unfortunately, we more and more we are so busy trying to be right no matter what, that we have left behind the four pillars of a logical and empathetic being….
Lack of reflection
People are increasingly opting for rigid thinking; such rigid thinking can only shape a close mind. More and more, society is using an approach that is not interested in other options, that does not analyze the information that comes to it, that does not apply logical reasoning nor the critical approach.
We meet more people who are like fortresses on a rock in the middle of the sea; isolated presences that only take into account their own perspectives and think they are being “confident” and a great example of good self-esteem; however, the opposite is quite evident by their actions and inability to relate to others. All of it is a natural result of not being able to relate to every aspect of their own nature. That which you deny controls you–they may think they are “evolved” because they believe they have somehow bypassed the work it takes to confront oneself, but in reality, they are digging themselves further in a hole. As such their own repressed emotions, feelings thoughts, give birth to a congenial rigidity that is very much destructive to self and leaves one incapable to relate to anything or anyone that does not feed the mask they have imposed on themselves.
Ecology of poor information
The human mind is becoming more and more accustomed to not thinking, because we allow social media and mobiles to think for us. We do not filter what comes to us, we give veracity to every biased opinion. We are willing to rip others apart simply because they too are basing themselves in their so-called data–data that can be manipulated to by one side or the other in order to manipulate, to captivate our emotions and invalidate our rationality. There is a difference between standing one’s ground and setting boundaries vs tearing people apart like irrational beasts–we are human beings. Very few things in this life will require a certain degree of “necessary violence”–most things, however, are not black and white and we should be mindful of that.
There are many who continue to apply this type of primitive and cavernous mind which is oriented to tribalism–the closed group. Such close-minded beings, see those who think differently as an enemy; a threatening figure from which one has to defend himself…quite irrational indeed!
Moralism engenders a thought that is motivated, selfish, and serves a certain group or ideology. It is a toxic and negative tendency, by which one tends to judge or criticize others or their reasoning just because they do not fit with one’s own value system. We forget to understand that what may be moral to one, may not be moral or decent to another–of course, once again it is important to remind ourselves that there are a few–very few– things, which are obviously wrong no matter what society one lives in.
With that said, it is also important to recognize what do we mean by moral…for again, society has become so irrational, that we have fallen into an ignorant idea of what moral means–for morality was never meant to be a seal for rigid, restrictive, falsely virtuous attitudes–for morality and virtuosity have more to do with essence and results than they have to do with reputations.
Let us not forget, that we are all capable of developing a more rational, thoughtful and sensible mind. If we were able to identify any of these 4 riders of irrationality, our society would probably move forward more sensibly, with less noise, aggressiveness, and confrontation.