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Re: [xmca] Culture & Rationality


This is a fair question, and I confess that I cannot. As I mentioned, the Stanford Enc of Phil has no entry for Rationality, which I find rather astonishing. Wikipedia has a short entry, which begins:

"In philosophy, rationality is the characteristic of any action, belief, or desire, that makes their choice a necessity. It is a normative concept about the reasoning in the sense that rational people should derive conclusions in a consistent way given the information at disposal. It refers to the conformity of one's beliefs with one's reasons to believe, or with one's actions with one's reasons for action. However, the term "rationality" tends to be used differently in different disciplines, including specialized discussions of economics, sociology, psychology, and political science. A rational decision is one that is not just reasoned, but is also optimal for achieving a goal or solving a problem."

I find this hard to parse, though it is interesting to see 'choice' linked to 'necessity' - presumably what is rational is what is compelling. Yet also what is consistent. And optimal. Talk about going in circles!

 I went to JStore too, and found the attached by Richard Rorty, which may or may not help.


Attachment: 1399670.pdf
Description: Adobe PDF document

On Jun 29, 2012, at 10:04 AM, Huw Lloyd wrote:

> On 27 June 2012 19:43, Martin Packer <packer@duq.edu> wrote:
>> Having written all this, it occurs to me that there is a simpler way to
>> put the question. Has any anthropologist been able to document a culture
>> that has a rationality different from what we practice in the west, but
>> that is not demonstrably weaker? That's not meant as a rhetorical question.
> Martin, can you clarify further your use of rationality.  Are you using it
> in the conventional manner that implicates types and logic, or perhaps in
> some wider sense of a symbolic system that works?
> In the wider sense, we can talk of the irrationality of the rational west,
> in that the types are reified.  Whereas we can also assert that "zen is not
> a rational activity", because zen recognises the thingness exists beyond
> any endeavour to punctuate it, i.e. that types are not ostensively real
> other than in their means of representation.
> Huw
>> Martin
>> On Jun 27, 2012, at 1:33 PM, Martin Packer wrote:
>>> Hi Peter,
>>> I am glad to see you join in the discussion, since I know you've done
>> interesting research on inner speech.
>>> I am certainly willing to grant that patterns of social interaction will
>> become patterns of self-regulation and thereby parts of patterns of
>> individual thinking. It also makes sense to me, and in my opinion LSV
>> clearly states the view, that the higher psychological processes are
>> cultural processes. I think he goes so far as to say that reasoning is
>> cultural.
>>> But, importantly, that is not the same as saying that reasoning *varies*
>> across cultures. We *all* live in culture, and one can say that reasoning
>> is cultural and still maintain that reasoning is universal. Are we willing
>> to take another step, and suggest that in specific cultures the ways that
>> people reason will be different, because the specific conventions of each
>> culture are involved? That is a big step to take, because the rules of
>> logic, to pick what is usually taken to be one component of reasoning, are
>> usually considered to hold regardless of local conventions.
>>> One way to take this step, of course, is to say that people in cultures
>> reason in different ways but then to add an evaluative dimension. Those
>> people in that culture reason differently from the way we do, but that is
>> because their reasoning is less adequate than ours. They are more
>> childlike, more primitive. *This* move has often been made, and I can find
>> many passages in LSV's texts where he seems to be saying basically this.
>> That's not a move I find interesting or appealing, and it's not what I am
>> proposing.
>>> On the contrary, it seems to me that much of LSV's writing can be read
>> as pointing to the conclusion that *standards* of rationality will vary
>> from one culture another. But I don't think he followed his own pointers,
>> and, as I've said above, it is a pretty radical conclusion to come to.
>>> Martin
>>> On Jun 27, 2012, at 9:33 AM, Peter Feigenbaum wrote:
>>>> Martin--
>>>> If you grant that interpersonal speech communication is essentially a
>> cultural invention, and that private and inner speech--as derivatives of
>> interpersonal speech communication--are also cultural inventions, then
>> Vygotsky's assertions about inner speech as a tool that adults use
>> voluntarily to conduct and direct such crucial psychological activities as
>> analyzing, reflecting, conceptualizing, regulating, monitoring, simulating,
>> rehearsing (actually, some of these activities were not specifically
>> asserted by Vygotsky, but instead have been discovered in experiments with
>> private speech) would imply that these "higher mental processes" are
>> themselves cultural products. Even if the *contents* of inner speech
>> thinking happen to bear no discernible cultural imprint, the process of
>> production nonetheless does.
>>>> Of course, you may not agree that interpersonal speech communication is
>> a cultural invention. But if you do go along with the idea that every
>> speech community follows (albeit implicitly) their own particular
>> conventions or customs for: assigning specific speech sounds to specific
>> meanings (i.e., inventing words); organizing words into sequences (i.e.,
>> inventing grammar--Chomsky's claims not withstanding); and sequencing
>> utterances in conversation according to rules of appropriateness (i.e.,
>> inventing rules that regulate "what kinds of things to say, in what message
>> forms, to what kinds of people, in what kinds of situations", according to
>> the cross-cultural work of E. O. Frake), then reasoning based on the use of
>> speech must be cultural as well.
>>>> My guess is that you are looking for evidence that cultures reason
>> differently. While there may be evidence for such a claim, I only want to
>> point out that the tools for reasoning are themselves manufactured by human
>> culture.
>>>> Peter
>>>> Peter Feigenbaum, Ph.D.
>>>> Associate Director of Institutional Research
>>>> Fordham University
>>>> Thebaud Hall-202
>>>> Bronx, NY 10458
>>>> Phone: (718) 817-2243
>>>> Fax: (718) 817-3203
>>>> e-mail: pfeigenbaum@fordham.edu
>>>> From:        Martin Packer <packer@duq.edu>
>>>> To:        "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <xmca@weber.ucsd.edu>
>>>> Date:        06/26/2012 05:06 PM
>>>> Subject:        [xmca] Culture & Rationality
>>>> Sent by:        xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu
>>>> Thank you for the suggestions that people have made about evidence that
>> supports the claim that culture is constitutive of psychological functions.
>> Keep sending them in, please! Now I want to introduce a new, but related,
>> thread. A few days ago I gave Peter a hard time because he wrote that
>> "higher mental processes are those specific to a culture, and thus those
>> that embody cultural concepts so that they guide activity."
>>>> I responded that I don't think that LSV ever wrote this - his view
>> seems to me to have been that it is scientific concepts that make possible
>> the higher psychological functions (through at time he seems to suggest the
>> opposite).
>>>> My questions now are these:
>>>> 1. Am I wrong? Did LSV suggest that higher mental processes are
>> specific to a culture and based on cultural concepts?
>>>> 2. If LSV didn't suggest this, who has? Not counting Peter!  :)
>>>> 3. Do we have empirical evidence to support such a suggestion? It seems
>> to me to boil down, or add up, to the claim that human rationality, human
>> reasoning, varies culturally. (Except who knows what rationality is? - it
>> turns out that the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy does not have an
>> entry for Rationality; apparently they are still making up their minds.)
>>>> that's all, folks
>>>> Martin
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