The cost of error: rational irrationality

Trying to figure out why people believe what they do keeps philosophers and psychologists busy. Bryan Caplan picks up on some ideas that have surfaced in Bias, Assent, and the Psychological Plausibility of Rational Irrationality. The take is on a contrast between Cartesian and Spinozan theories about how people form perceptions and why they keep them and what it takes to change them.

We may have a cognitive bias towards assent, but it’s often our emotions that dissuade us from taking the effort to unbelieve. That’s why providing free counter-arguments so rarely changes the minds of true believers.

It sounds simple but the climate research brouhaha illustrates that sometimes the belief gets to to distorting reality. It is those who insist in human caused (e.g. CO2 based) global warming who are claiming that those who promote skepticism and accountability are the unbelievers and “deniers” and so forth. The difficulties in deciding which side is more rational can be determined by an objective look at behavior, but that often gets buries in an irrational rationality. i.e. irrational behavior often gets into a positive feedback loop and, if really pushed, can result in disastrous effect.

Meanwhile, the P&P (philosophers and psychiatrists) crowd have some interesting human behavior to ponder.

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