Research Group
in Analytic Philosophy

Arguing for irrationality

29 November 2023  |  15:00  |  Seminari de Filosofia UB


Is irrationality (sometimes, under some conditions) defensible by (sound or at least convincing) argument?
The idea should sound at least a little paradoxical. Isn't "defensible by argument" tantamount to "rationally defensible"? How can irrationality be rationally defensible? Indeed, on mainstream philosophical construals, “rationality” denotes a normative notion so “thin” that it’s difficult to see how irrationality could ever have something to recommend itself – except, perhaps, in very recherché and outlandish scenarios.
At the same time, irrationality – or at least something going by that name – has its defenders, both among the learned and the folk. It seems likely that these “irrationalists” are not talking about the exact same thing as us contemporary philosophers would when using the words "rational," "irrational" and cognates. It also seems likely that they are not talking about something completely unrelated.
In this paper, I would like to consider a range of folk arguments for irrationality in this vein, with the aim of figuring out

- What their proponents mean by "rationality" and "irrationality."
- If there is a way to construe "rationality" and "irrationality" such that these arguments are sound or at least make sense.
- How the resulting construals relate to the "thin" normative notion that philosophers usually have in mind.