Defining Irrationality

When people first encounter Socrates, I think the mind has a tendency to go in one of two directions.

One is, who is this man and what game is he playing? If I can understand this game, and define my terms correctly, I can beat him at this game. This is a direction towards legal thought.

Or two, Socrates is not playing a game, I’ll learn what he’s saying and consider it very carefully, comprehending his terms and follow them where they lead. This is a direction towards medical thought. This is the direction I took, though not without briefly considering the other path.

Now, it’s not so easy to define irrationality purely based on beliefs, for it would seem, that for every schizophrenic belief there is a sane mirror. For every person who believes the cia is spying on them, there is a sane conspiracy theorist who believes the same.

For every schizophrenic who believes in aliens, there is a sane person who believes in aliens. And for every schizophrenic who believes that god talks to them and has a will for their life, there is a sane religious person who believes the same.

One can try to define irrationality in terms of behavior instead, though its not clear that makes the matter any easier, so you end up with some shallow, cursory, statements like. “X is not normal when it interferes with work for more than 5 days.” Or “Y is not normal, if it causes you to drop out of school.”

Now, it would be strange to define diseases this way, after all, many people are able to go to school or work with cancer, or heart disease, though they often can’t, so it leads to a definition with some semblance of what a disease is.

The intriguing aspect of this, the matter of trying to define irrationality in such a way, is that you end up doing something legal in a medical context.

This is kind of interesting, and it leads to some particularly strange outcomes. One of them is that medical authority, ends up taking on legal authority.

This is truly fascinating, because it gives medical authority, which typically has the power to examine and treat patients, also the power to detain and listen to arguments.

Now, in some special cases, medicine already possesses narrow, defined, legal, authority, for example, the power to quarantine, so they should already be skilled at it.


97 thoughts on “Defining Irrationality”

  1. Perhaps these might be more properly titled, “Divining Irrationality” or “Devining Irrationality.” For me, as a mathematician, I define irrational numbers as those that aren’t rational. Some irrational numbers are computable, and some are not. I have forgotten the definition of a transcendental number at this point, but some irrational numbers are transcendental numbers. That’s how you divide irrational numbers into categories of numbers.

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