People 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!
- The Tooth Fairy: A story of how my son sacrificed rationality