Not addressed to XiXiDu specifically.
Proposal: “Rational” is now a Banned Word. No one is allowed to use it. No one is allowed to snidely use its ironic social connotations. No one is allowed to use one of its technical meanings to sneak in connotations of general normativity-backed-by-math (e.g. ‘exponential discounting is rational’, ‘maximizing utility is rational’). No one is allowed to call a person, group, belief, meme, ideology, or effing anything, “irrational”. (If you want to use a generic vague negative social descriptor for some insane reason then use “biased” or “false” or something that sort of makes sense.)
A few of the many reasons: In all the time I’ve hung around SingInst people I’ve barely ever heard the words “rational” or “irrational”. It’s not done. There’s no reason to ever use the words. If you want to say a person is good at thinking in one or a few ways, you list the ways. If you want to say they’re good at achieving their goals or getting shit done then you say that. Reversed for lacking certain thinking skills, generalized for groups of people.
Around some parts of SingInst-y Visiting Fellows-y folk there is a notion of “sanity/sane” but it’s way more nuanced than “rational” and isn’t used in retarded ways.
To call a person or a group irrational is a variation on that ancient and incredibly typical pattern where one manages to commit both (a) the fundamental attribution error and (b) the sin of comparing one’s (affectively biased) perception of the world to a vague idealistic wish-fulfilling should world, at the same time, so one can justify and thus set the stage for some combination of immediately subsequent indignation, frustration, feelings of superiority, not wanting to help, contempt, and generally that whole class of negative emotions one can easily hold self-righteously, while spinning it all in a way that signals concern for morality and tribal allegiance and while keeping others from pointing out how useless or counterproductive such circle-jerking is because such criticism would be perceived as endorsement of irrationality (oppression, sexism, racism, fundamentalism, insert contemptible beliefs/preferences/memes here). This is such a typical and head-desk-causing signaling pattern (and has been forever) that surely it’s written up much better somewhere else.
I would call it irrational for irony’s sake (though you can tell I’m being legitimately hypocritical here, and that this is self-criticism as well as whatever else it is), but what is the “rational” should world standard against which I am comparing this general type of “reasoning”? The nameless virtue? Our best current conception of decision theory? AIXI? What we can imagine using inside view as the closest thing a human or humans or things roughly as bounded as humans are could come to approximating ideal decision theory? What is “rational”? Where the fundamental attribution error sees vague irrationality, straightforward non-socially-fueled reasoning sees the consequences of boundedness in a world most likely beyond the reach of God. Your enemies really truly aren’t innately evil. There’s no room in the model for blame or contempt or indignation. There’s still room for them in human psychology, and if you want to use the fire of indignation for personal pursuits then I won’t blame you. But when it comes to epistemic hygiene, that kind of reasoning is toxic.
(Note also the various social maneuvers one can use to make it seem as if another is trying to use the above social maneuver against one, et cetera. What I listed as a problem is a symptom, obviously.)
Calling a belief or set of memes “irrational” just looks like an ugly and badness-causing misuse of a word/concept.
(I haven’t slept in a long time. I apologize for the preachy tone and aggressiveness. Or, like, there’s some counterfactual world where it could have been avoided, and it is expected of me that I acknowledge that a tradeoff has been made which keeps this world from looking more like that slightly-more-optimized world, and feel sorry about that necessity, or something, so I do.)
It would help me a lot if you could tell me if you disagree with this (my definition of rationality, right, wrong and should) and this (why we utter moral propositions). If you disagree, please try to explain how I am wrong so that I can become less wrong.