July 29, 2005

What would Spock say?

I'm an avid reader of Eric Zorn's blog, and I just don't know what to make of a recent entry of his. In this post, he talks about how he subscribes to the "don't fly with your spouse" school of thought (I wonder if he's seen that Mad About You episode?), and he makes a certain distinction between irrational and illogical behaviour.

I have to say, I have no idea what he's talking about.

Try as I might, I can't come up with a pair of definitions for these two words that makes the distinction, and I'm having a hard time even verbalising the distinction. Does anyone else understand it? It has something to do with cost-benefit analysis and doing the cheaper/easier things first, I guess, but ultimately I'm not seeing how this ties in with some sort of distinction between "logic" and "reason".

"On the upside, sex toys are the kind of plastic that is more fun than the kind of plastic that you put old food in. Think about it: Tupperware's big selling point is that it "burps." The big selling point of sex toys is that they provide mind-blowing orgasms." --Leigh Anne Wilson

Posted by blahedo at 12:17am on 29 Jul 2005

Usually, irrational and illogical mean the same thing. Occasionally they do not. If you phrase the question as "What is rational but illogical?" or "What is logical but irrational?" it becomes clearer. I'll try to provide an example of each.

If you're willing to accept loving one's spouse as rational, it falls under "rational but illogical" since logic has very little to do with emotion. That's on slightly shaky ground, but that's a good segue for the next example. If you start from an irrational premise ("pleasure is sinful") you can come to a logical but irrational conclusion ("women who have orgasms are sinners").

Posted by Greg at 12:26pm on 29 Jul 2005
And, of course, now that I've commented I'll actually read the column. My response is that he's got it backwards. It is logical but irrational to fly separately. The irrational premise is that "the risk of orphaning your kids by both of you dying on the same plane flight is sufficient to act on." The logical but irrational conclusion is that you should not take the same flight as your spouse. Posted by Greg at 12:34pm on 29 Jul 2005

I don't think spliting the parents is such a logical idea either. You double the probability that the children will suffer the loss of a parent. And the remaining parent will go through considereable suffering. Whereas the children will still experience considerable suffering and life disruption from the loss of even one parent.

If you're really concerned about all that, then line up foster parents before something happens.

I agree with the above in regards to irrational vs. illogical. Logic is old-school 'if A and B therefore C' type stuff.

But rationality implies taking a much wider view of the world. And doing what makes sense given the facts. And the drive to get enough facts to make a good decision.

Posted by ansible at 7:45pm on 29 Jul 2005
Irrational behavior is behavior which does not seek to fulfill your desires. Illogical behavior is behavior which does not obviously seek to fulfill your desires. ;) Posted by Kimmitt at 3:36pm on 14 Aug 2005
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