The Rational Being

Posted on November 26, 2007


Perhaps my most fundamental illusion is this.  That people exist in a rational state of being.  That I do too.  At base it is a political illusion that I should think this.  Indeed, because it concerns the ‘total economy’ of how one functions.

I mean something like the following.  That I tend to suppose that rationality is a state rather than what it is actually, an ideal.  It is like the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.  What is it?  A hope, a state, a desire, a process?  With the actual rainbow things are clearer; this is the difference.  You see the wonderful rainbow.  But don’t suppose you will ever find its gold.  One could say that politics tends to make us want to think the reverse.  “There is the pot; give me the gold.” 

“Man is a rational animal.”   

One expects reasonableness, rationality, and so argues in these terms, defends, judges in ways that infer this ‘state’ in a human being.    But it isn’t how the world works.  At some point the process breaks down because one fails to think strategically in this approach: according to the idea of the human race existing in its not-rational state.  All one’s thinking is backwards:  it is only within the object of a strategically understood ideal that any sense will be made. 

But then so it goes on.  Out of the failed ‘rationality’ comes a new with a different set of illusions about the human ‘state’.  A new politics of hope emerges creating in its symbol what I would call a house or a home that of course sits at the end of the rainbow (the place that defines where I would like to live) but it is not a state: it doesn’t describe our condition. 

 But of course we have learned to talk of, and will only consider, the “state” and its inherited human rights exclusively.

One could say that novelists have a true advantage over philosophers, thinkers, rational idealists, in these terms, in so far as they do not presuppose the god-given dimensions of a rational context for people other than through their observed self-willed behaviour … Philosophy presupposes a ‘rational state’.  Farce ensues.  I myself possess no ‘rational state’. 

Just at this point – in this vanity – death enters one’s life.