Rationality, Assumption and History

Any human activity – whether it’s politics, sports or business-  stands on the assumption that people act rationally.

Take curling (winter sports) for example. The way we develop a strategy is based on how your opponent moves, and it assumes that your opponent will move rationally, in a way that benefits them to achieve the final goal ; to win the game.

If I, having no experience in curling, were to play a match with the Olympic winning team, there is a good chance that I lose. However, put aside my actual curling skill, in terms of strategy, it could be hard for the Olympic winning team to fight against me, not despite the fact that I’m a complete beginner, but because I’m a complete beginner. I don’t move in a way which professional curling teams move, I will do “n’importe quoi” as in French (traduction : nonsense) which makes the opponent difficult to predict what my next move will be. In other words, I move in such an absolute irrational way for professional teams that they are no longer able to build a strategy.

In politics as well, politicians assume that people behave in a way that benefit them (which is the case most of the time), they plan strategies of negotiation to get the most out of it.

Even in our everyday life, for example, shop owners assume that people pay and buy their goods, so that they display and sell stuff. Marketing, advertisement, all of these business strategies presume how people will react, and these predictions are based on their assumption that people act rationally.

It’s kind of frightening to think that all our actions and decisions are based on the assumption that people act rationally, in a way that benefits them.

What if people start living in a complete irrational way?

In fact, people are capable of doing literally anything (which Satre referred as “angoisse“, a negative emotion that arises from the realization that all human beings are completely free), but they don’t usually do it solely by their morality or rationality.

Some people say that history is inevitable. In a sense it could be true, because we are behaving in a way which is somewhat predictable. That is how our society functions ; there is a law because people are expected to respect it, welfare system relies on taxation which people are expected to pay. If we act in a way we are supposed to act, then history should be happening in a way it is supposed to happen.

However, sometimes there have been unpredictable events in history by people who were totally out of the norm and rationality, such as Hitler who devastated the social order entirely. These are also the things that made our history. So, is history inevitable?

I don’t know.

All I can say is that we all probably should keep behaving in a rational way and stay away from crazy ideas which might reverse our society, unless they are for the better future…

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