It’s not uncommon for people to call their political opponents on television delusional or out of touch with reality, and while we they may be speaking metaphorically, it does highlight an important source of difficulty in the age of reason.
How do we account for the irrational? If after all, reason is what’s best, and reason is most important, and reason is the only path to truth, then why would anyone ever make an irrational choice?
Well, there are lots of ways to account for this, the most significant one, is that they simply didn’t see things clearly, and had they enough facts, or known the right variables, they would have arrived at the correct conclusion.
But there are other ways to make this account. Perhaps the person was emotional, and therefore momentarily out of touch with their rational faculties in some way, or the topic itself is of a highly subjective nature. That would also explain irrationality.
But finally, if there appears no other account to explain irrationality, the last conclusion is that their must be something fundamentally wrong.
It seems simple enough on the surface, if after all, someone cannot see that 2+2=4, there simply has to be something wrong. It’s something no rational person, can’t see. What could be more obvious?
But if someone doesn’t, or can’t, or wont, we’re forced to make a conclusion. We can’t say they are evil for not seeing the obvious, for reason has always had a notoriously difficult time establishing a foundation of morality as simple as 2+2=4, but we can look to where reason has been successful at clarifying principles: Health, and Disease.
So it becomes a rather simple matter, that if someone can’t or won’t, see what is rational, there must be a disease at work. And so we have some clear cases of this line of thought at work, the notions of Drapetomania, and Sluggish Schizophrenia.
Now, Drapetomania, was the the propensity of certain African American Slaves to be disatisfied in their servitude without cause. After all, if a master treated their slaves properly, and kept them well fed and clothed, why on earth would they want to leave their bondage?
The second case is that of Sluggish Schizophrenia, a diagnosis used in the former Soviet Union for political dissidents. After all, if people cannot see the supreme good of communism, there must be something seriously wrong, for it is obviously most rational. There must be a disease at work.
Now both of these diseases are looked at differently in an historical context. Draeptomania is seen as an artifact of scientific racism, and Sluggish Schizophrenia is seen as an example of political abuse of medicine.
But they are really not so different, as both bely the underlying notion that irrationality is itself a disease, and must be treated as such.