by The Reaper
An easy for my TOK class about when people should use their rational mind.
|Essay on a Prescribed Title
All knowledge claims should be open to rational criticism. On what grounds and to what extent would you agree with the assertion?
Areas of knowledge can be viewed from many different perspectives in our world of highly diverse belief systems and thought patterns. Some people believe that certain areas of knowledge, such as art and religion, should not be analyzed rationally because they are not subjects that can be completely understood rationally. However, they are mistaken. Rationalism should be utilized to evaluate and criticize all forms of knowledge to the greatest extent possible because rational criticism can lead to logical, thoughtful answers and plausible explanations.
Rationalism must be applied to all fields of knowledge because the world is full of irrational ideas conjured by the multitude of people that inhabit it. It is absolutely crucial that people be cautious and rationally criticize ideas in order to insure that they are not manipulated or lied to by those around them.
Many people in today’s society listen to ideas postulated by others and, without rationally questioning what they hear, readily accept such ideas at face value for irrelevant reasons. It is common even in a educated society for the average person to hold an irrational belief just because everyone else around them believes in it, or they grew up being taught that way without ever questioning the idea, or because they don’t have the mental capacity to completely think an issue all the way through to a logical conclusion.
A good argument as to why a person should rationally criticize ideas and events can be seen easily in the human anatomy. Homo sapiens were born with an abnormally large brain, yet with few physical forms of protection from predators such as large teeth, claws, or external armored plating. This, then, can be seen as evidence that humans evolved to survive in this cruel world primarily by means of their reasoning abilities. If people do not use their ability to think rationally and critically of the world they live in then they are not using their best natural weapon and defense against the world at large. Human beings should maximize the use their rational thought to ward off ignorance, fear, and manipulation in a similar way as other organisms use their natural abilities to protect them.
A prime example that can occur during our daily lives is when someone goes to a physician and he describes his symptoms. The doctor listens to the list of symptoms and then tells the patient exactly what is wrong with him. The patient may disagree with the diagnosis, but keep it to himself instead of discussing it with his doctors. He should rationally think through the situation, first by rationally thinking about how bad the symptoms are affecting him, then deciding how credible the doctor is; then by researching the illness diagnosed by the doctor, and, if he still rationally doubts the credibility of the doctor’s diagnosis he should then seek a second opinion from another doctor.
However, many people will not go through this rational process and will immediately believe their first doctor simply because of their perception that the doctor is an all-knowing, authority figure when it comes to matters that deal with anatomical problems.
Another example that is common among people is the inherent tendency to immediately trust other people that they meet in their daily lives without a fully rational basis for that trust.
This causes many problems as there are many people in the world that actively seek to trick people, in the hope of gaining money or power. If people do not safe guard themselves against such deceit by use of their natural defense, of rational thinking, then they are doomed to be continually tricked and mislead.
Rational criticism should be applied to all areas of an individual’s life and should be applied to the fullest extent of an individual’s thinking capacity. This is so because all ideas and real world events should be analyzed for possible faults in order to discern the truth.
The consequences of not rationally analyzing every situation and idea could be catastrophic to the individual in question, such as in the previous example of the doctor that told a patient that they had a certain disorder. If the patient does not analyze the situation properly and blindly follows the doctors advice the situation may lead to a painful or lethal ending. It’s particularly important to analyze a medical matter rationally because an individual’s religious beliefs or misperceptions might persuade an individual to do something that they otherwise would not logically do; such as when a person’s religion doesn’t allow for modern medicine or a doctor’s aid. This again could cause a painful or lethal end to the individual in question.
Some people have the belief that a person shouldn’t rationally question or criticize everything. Such people have a tendency to abstain from criticism of the dogma of their particular religion. This is because they believe that spiritual matters can’t be rationally explained, and that they should therefore not be subject to rational criticism or logical reasoning. This, however, is misguided. As previously mentioned, many people hold certain beliefs for very poor reasons, such as because every one else around them believes a certain way or they grew up being taught that way and never questioned the teahing.
These reasons are particularly true with religion. Generally, a person’s belief system heavily depends primarily on the geographical location where they grew up and on the religion of their parents. If a person does not critically and rationally analyze thier religion, they could easily be induced to follow their beliefs to extreme ends. For instance, some people will kill others or die for their spiritual beliefs based on religious dogma.
Throughout history many people have used their religious beliefs as an excuse to kill or drive away others with differing beliefs, i.e. the Spanish Inquisition and the Crusades of the Middle Ages.
Even in modern times we see examples where people may not only give their own life for their belief, but take the lives of others as well. Such an example can be seen in the Islamic extremists. The violent extremist will commit these acts purely because of the difference, by and large, of how their parents raised them and where they grew up. If these people would rationally question and criticize their religion’s dogma from a logical stand point and realize the faults inherent in them, then the many atrocities and much suffering might be averted.
People that still cling to their religious beliefs after rationally analyzing them often only do so because of faith, which is a belief in something that cannot be tested or proven. However, in the words of Dan Barker, a former evangelist minister and now co-president of Freedom From Religion Foundation and noted author, “Faith is a cop-out. It is intellectual bankruptcy. If the only way you can accept an assertion is by faith, then you are conceding that it can’t be taken on it’s own merits.” What Barker is essentially saying is that to accept something based solely on faith, then you are making the point, by believing only in faith, that what you believe in is based from an absolute lack of evidence which any rational mind would immediately eject.
Another area of thought that people believe does not require rational thinking is art. Many think that art is something for the emotions of individuals to explore, not the rational, logical portion of their mind. However, it is the brain that must first interpret the art for an individual’s emotions to respond. It is therefore highly important for the individual to be rationally critical of a piece of art to make sure the art is not rubbish as well as to examine the feelings that the individual is experiencing from the art and then to judge whether or not he likes it. A good example of this can be seen in art that appears, on the surface to be simplistic, with perhaps lots of paint that looks quite literally as if it had been thrown onto the canvas. A rational mind might see through this bad attempt at art and move on, while another more gullible person might try to find some meaning or some emotion in the piece and, when they can’t find it, make up the emotion that they “think” they feel.
Rational criticism should be applied to every aspect throughout a person’s life. At the extreme, a person with little or no rational thinking would not last long in our society. This is because the person could be tricked out of what monetary funds they have and/or potentially die in an accident that could have been avoided with rational thought. Rationalism should be used to critically question all forms of knowledge to the greatest extent possible because rational criticism usually leads to logical, thoughtful answers.