Joyfully Sacrificing Reason

sacrificial_lamb1People sacrifice their rationality in focused areas of their lives so they can obtain some benefit — but this all happens subconsciously.  You sacrifice rationality to obtain or maintain something of value: a lover, a community, a job, your life, friends, or even happiness.  If we accuse others of just being “plain stupid” when they are make this sacrifice, we show our lack of understanding of how the mind works.

The principle of sacrifice fills our literature, movies and actions.  When playing Chess (though WeiQi is a superior game), a player who does not understand sacrifice is handicapped.  All of us, and I mean “all“,  sacrifice reason daily.  And we sacrifice her not because we are stupid, but because we are a Temple built for sacrifice.  The human mind has many modules the vie for dominance over any problem presented to it.   Reason is but one of these modules (OK, it is a huge cluster of modules, but let me keep the analogy simple).  We have lots of conflicting modules that compete to add their output to our sensory and cognitive inputs.   This is why we experience visual hallucinations, moral confusion and, I contend, religion in otherwise intelligent people.  I would wager that the reason module, which will always be under-skilled, will often deserve to be sacrificed to allow the other modules to make the better decision.  Sometimes out minds know what we want better than our reason.

Caveat: I believe reason should be trained and valued.  But I also believe part reason should be used to better understand how the mind works and why we do what we do.  But as the cartoon shows, often it is important to understand that the sacrifice is unnecessary and better options are available.  Ah, the chore of being human!

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5 Comments

Filed under Cognitive Science, Consciousness, Philosophy & Religion

5 responses to “Joyfully Sacrificing Reason

  1. Good post, and makes sense. It’s always helpful to be able to think through (reason), why we think things, so we have an answer to the “god of the gaps” arguments.

    “I would wager that the reason module, which will always be under-skilled, will often deserve to be sacrificed to allow the other modules to make the better decision. “

    Sometimes to make a better decision, but perhaps also sometimes sacrificed to allow the other modules to make the decision quicker? We don’t always have the luxury of taking the time to be careful in making a well-reasoned decision, even though the quicker decision may turn out to be ill-advised in the long run. Like, what happens to the methodical decision maker when the tiger attacks?

  2. @atimetorend: thank you — yes I agree !

  3. Hehe… “Wouldn’t you rather have a nice wool sweater?”

    I live in a desert, stupid!

  4. kategladstone

    Re:
    “I would wager that the reason module, which will always be under-skilled, will often deserve to be sacrificed to allow the other modules to make the better decision. ” —
    How do you make that decision to sacrifice reason — with the reason module, or without it?

  5. @ Kate Gladstone,

    Thanx for popping in — curious how you found this post.

    But to answer your question:

    The brain makes that decision. Most often the person is not aware of the decision process the brain makes, and indeed the brain even offers post-hoc rationalizations for the person to use to explain these decisions so as to pretend that some ONE-THING (the person), actually did the decision making, whereas the picture is much more complex than that.

    I wager that my explanation is not clear, but that is because it is short hand for all information you can find in my posts here which explain my perspective using the image of “Many Selves”.

    I hope you are following the comments so that my reply reaches you. And BTW, my son could use some of your handwriting repair!

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