The dilemma of irrationality
-By Ishaan Chopra
If understand is defined as to perceive the underlying meaning and explanation of a system and the phenomena in relation to it and knowing is defined as just to be aware of something, it would seem these two seemingly similar words cause a dilemma. To understand something it is of salience that we know of it first, how can we understand something that we aren’t aware of in the first place? To know something however does not require us to understand it, I could know and be aware of the pain in my chest and conclude it’s a disease but only a medical professional could understand said disease and everything surrounding it, so it is possible to have experiences you don’t understand but know of. Here is where the dilemma occurs, if it is indeed possible to have experiences that you don’t understand, what is one to do with those experiences?
Understanding something requires us to have a well defined system, of which we understand all parts thoroughly. If something now was to occur that does not act in accordance with the system and hence our understanding, are we to reject it or accept it?
This is precisely what in my opinion is the dilemma of irrationality, is one to know of something which he cannot comprehend and hence temporarily terms as irrational and pursue it in hopes of one day understanding it and thus making it rational? This would require that someone to chase after something outlandish and foolish that may very well be rejected by the systems of understanding of the masses. This creates somewhat of a paradox.
Take for example a philosophical atheist, one day he wakes up with the absolute realization of god’s existence, there is absolutely no doubt of it, to him now it is a fact that god exists, he could deny it and follow his rational beliefs that he has had through the majority of life or abandon them for this irrational and eerie realization that seems far fetched. This can be seen as a modified red pill versus blue pill argument of sorts.
This isn’t some hypothetical instance either but a prominent problem in epistemology, if our aim is to have a holistic understanding of the world we live in would this be possible? Take religions for example, if I am a devout catholic, my religion would require me to reject the claims of some other religions due to their rather evident contradictory nature, the claim here being that in order to understand one system it is likely that we will have to reject other systems or other facts that we do not yet understand, thus a holistic understand of the world for now and the near future would be impossible. One could argue that just because two things contradict each other does not mean one of them is wrong, it may be entirely possible that two seemingly contradictory beliefs turn out to be true but there are yet years to come before we can understand why, this is precisely the dilemma. To accept the world as what it is, we must be willing to let go of dogmatic rationalism.
By now I believe, the examples have made the dilemma clear, what now then?
I believe that this irrationality is of importance and should be pursued, what once was thought to be irrational mysticism is now science. We can only understand something if we know it first, so to reject something that we have perceived for certain would be a fallacy, it demands to be explored perhaps for the understanding of it only to prove it false.