meta-rationality

Many people who claim or give the appearance of being rational are not necessarily meta-rational. Paul Krugman, the Nobel prize-winning economist and irritating NY Times columnist, is an example. He (rationally) argues in favor of positions that support his overall economic and political philosophy. Smart move; no one wants to read editorials written by flip-floppers.

Meta-rationality denotes not only capacity toward rational thought but also conscious effort to overcome bias to pursue objective truth. If, hypothetically, Krugman has some agenda other than truth-dispensing, he’d be perfectly rational in choosing not to be meta-rational. Of course, it might not be a choice at all; he might be blissfully unaware of his lack of meta-rationality.

I’ll add this (from the preceding link).

Our intellects may be inferior to Krugman’s, but if we cultivate our own meta-rationality, we are more likely to be right than he is. Meta-rationality trumps intelligence. We would be fools to dismiss Krugman out-of-hand, because, after all, that would not be very meta-rational of us. But, having given due weight to his and other arguments, if we continue to disagree, we may do so with the strong suspicion that our disagreement is warranted.

Next time you hear or read some smart person’s opinion, your bullshitometer should alert you immediately if the presenter of the information is lacking in meta-rationality. Of course, how will you know? My personal view is that your intuition will tell you quickly, but you can break this information down more analytically and look at word choice, response to new information or feedback, avoidance of responding to select questions or new information, ad hominem (personal) attacks, etc.

That last one might be the most obvious and telling, as it encapsulates all the other ones. If I “defend” my view by attacking you (you personally, that is), then I’m avoiding a response to your points, responding with personal and attack-oriented or dismissive words, and verbally (or in written form) indicating my own lack of willingness to consider your views. This pattern should become obvious with sufficient exposure and variety of responses. Truth-seekers will likely follow a typical and discernable pattern as well that will be markedly different than the meta-irrational pattern.

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