Monday, July 16, 2018

Rationality vs Deep Thought

Assalamualaikum and greetings dear Bits and Pieces readers,

I'm reading a book written by John Ralston Saul entitled "Voltaire's Bastards: The Dictatorship of Reason in the West". I started reading it in 2016 and even after two years, haven't finish. This is record breaking for me as I've always been a fast reader. Still, it is unsurprising because the writer is a philosopher. Like most philosophers, it's so difficult to fathom his thoughts!

Fortunately (and alhamdulillah), his ideas got across to me recently. I am able to boil down his points into one simple sentence:
People make wrong decisions when they confuse rationality with deep thought.
You are questioning this sentence, aren't you? "Is not rationality similar to deep thought," you ask? Even Thesaurus lists wise as a synonym to rational. Well, you and Thesaurus have never been more wrong.

No, this post is not a book review to support that fact. The book review might come in the future, God willing. Probably eons away in the future. The actual purpose of this post is to explain how rationality is different from deep thought based on two simplest examples.

Image by tsukiko-kiyomidzu

1. Social media posts
It is easy to say that a person is narcissistic when (s)he post a lot of selfies on social media. People quickly presume that someone is an attention seeker when (s)he post a lot of personal struggles online. These conclusions are rationale, after all.
But should we think deeper, we might arrive at a different conclusion; the former might be suffering from a mental condition (which a study had recently pointed out) while the latter could view writing in social media as a form of therapy.

O you who have believed, avoid much [negative] assumption. Indeed, some assumption is sin. And do not spy or backbite each other. Would one of you like to eat the flesh of his brother when dead? You would detest it. And fear Allah ; indeed, Allah is Accepting of repentance and Merciful.
[Quran: Chapter 49 Verse 12]

2. Stages in life
We are often advised to embark in life by following these steps: obtain an education, get a high paying career, get married, and have kids. These stages must be followed accordingly and religiously. The masses have agreed that to skip any step or to not follow them in order would translate into a difficult life. To clarify further: If you don't get an education, it will be difficult for you to find a high paying job. And if you can't find a high paying job, you won't have enough money to start a family. This insecurity will cause difficulties. Difficulties in turn, cause restlessness and sadness. These are the lines of a rational thought.
But if we pause for awhile and observe, we'll notice that this isn't necessarily so. People go through these stages of life at different times and at a different pace. Some might not go through one or more of these stages at all. Thus you wonder sometimes, how can the poor still smile and be at peace amidst chaos? How are the rich can be so serious and worried though in stability?

But perhaps you hate a thing and it is good for you; and perhaps you love a thing and it is bad for you. And Allah Knows, while you know not. [Quran: Chapter 2 Verse 216]

You may surmise two things from the above examples. One, cliche and two, morality or ethics.

Well my dear readers, these cliches can be analogous with what Saul wrote in his book. Politics and economics, topics that we would deem novel, have been made complicated by a rational line of thinking. These complexities then have been confused with deep thought. This is because rationally, anyone who possess deep thought, would be able to figure it out. The reality is, these complexities are to create a class or a caste that would separate people by "knowledge" (I think the strike through together with the quote will further emphasize how knowledge, in this sentence, is an oxymoron).

Anyhow, like I said earlier, I'm not going to elaborate further what Saul wrote in his book; at least not in this post. But I'd like to share a conclusion that I've arrived at.

To be a person with deep thought we need:
1) Simplicity
2) Morality/ethics
Do you agree with me? Or you simply don't care?