What does it mean to be rational ? – Part I
  • The core of rationality requires adherence to the following principles:
    • Principle of Non-Contradiction
    • Principle of The Excluded Middle
    • Principle of Adequate Cause
    • Principle of Epistemic Confirmation
    • Principle of Non-Self-Destruction
    • Principle of Internal Consistency
    • Principle of External Congruence
  • What do we mean by these?
    • In part I of this article, we will discuss the first 4 principles, and in part II of this article, we will discuss the last 3 principles.

Principle of Non-Contradiction
  • Two claims that contradict one another can NOT both be true at the same time and in the same sense.

  • Rational Example:
    • Claim A: God Exists. Claim B: God does not exist. Both of these claims can not both be true at the same time and in the same sense.
    • Either God exists, or God does not exist… He cant be both (at the same time, and in the same sense).
  • Irrational Example:
    • To insist (or to believe) that God exists and God does not exist, at the same time (and in the same sense), is irrational.
  • Rational Example::
    • Claim A: I am alive. Claim B: I am NOT alive.
    • Either I am alive, or I am not alive… I cant be both (at the same time).
  • Irrational Example:
    • To insist (or to believe) that I am alive and I am not alive (at the same time) is irrational.

Principle of the Excluded Middle
  • Either something IS, or IS NOT. There is no middle alternative.

  • Rational Example:
    • Either God Exists, or God does not Exist. There is no middle alternative.
  • Rational Example:
    • Either I am alive, or I am dead. There is no middle alternative.
  • Rational Example:
    • To insist (or to believe) that I am not alive, and I am not dead … but I am something that is neither alive nor dead… is irrational.

Principle of Adequate Cause
  • Every effect has a cause. And the cause has to be adequate for the effect.

  • Rational Example::
    • A body-builder lifts 400 pounds. The effect is the “rising of the 400 pound weights”. The cause of this effect is the body-builder (who chooses to lift the weights).
    • So, the effect (rising 400-pound weights) has a cause (body builder lifting them).
    • The body builder is demonstrably strong enough to lift the 400 pounds. Therefore the cause (body builder) is adequate for the effect (i.e., is strong enough to generate the effect; or is capable of generating the effect). In other words, the body builder is strong enough to lift the 400-pound weight.
  • Irrational Example (effect = self-cause ?):
    • To insist (or to believe) that the 400-pound-weights lift themselves is irrational.
    • This (above) would be a situation where the effect is its own cause. We infer then, that it is irrational to believe that an effect can be its own cause.
  • Irrational Example (inadequate cause):
    • To insist (or to believe) that random chance caused all the air molecules beneath the weights to push upwards and lift up the weights, is irrational.
    • Note that this is a logical possibility (that all the air molecules beneath the weights push upwards and lift up the weights)… However, to insist (or to believe) that this is an adequate cause for the rising 400-pound-weights is still irrational. We can calculate the probability of this event happening by random chance. The extremely low probability of its occurrence is a trigger that alerts us to the fact that believing random-chance to be the cause is irrational.
    • The very low probability of such an occurrence, appears to indicate that the postulated cause (random chance) is not adequate for the effect.
    • Note: this is apart from the fact that random chance can not be a cause of anything… random chance is a descriptive term used to describe randomness of events caused by other physical entities. Random chance is not a physical entity that can act upon another physical entity (to cause a physical effect)…
  • Irrational Example (inadequate cause):
    • To insist (or to believe) that a butterfly is lifting up the weights on its wings, is irrational.
    • The postulated cause (the butterfly) is not adequate for the effect (in other words, the butterfly is not strong enough to cause the effect of the rising 400-pound-weights).

  • So we see that it is rational to adhere to the principle that every effect has a cause, and the cause has to be adequate for the effect.

Principle of Epistemic Confirmation
  • Given two hypotheses A and B…
    • and if effect E is a natural consequence to be expected if hypothesis A were true,
    • and if effect F is a natural consequence to be expected if hypothesis B were true…
    • and if we observe that effect E is true (real and actualized in our world), but that effect F is not observed to be true (we don’t see evidence of its being actualized in our world)…
    • then it is rational to infer that hypothesis A is correct (effect E is confirming evidence for hypothesis A) and that hypothesis B is wrong (particularly, if E = not-F, then the truth of E is disconfirming evidence against hypothesis B).

  • In the scenario above…
    • At the very least, effect E is confirming evidence for hypothesis A over hypothesis B.

  • Alternatively, given two hypotheses A and B…
    • and if effect E would be a surprise (not expected) if hypothesis B were true,
    • and if effect F would be a surprise (not expected) if hypothesis A were true…
    • and if we observe that effect E is true (real and actualized in our world), but that effect F is not observed to be true (we don’t see evidence of its being actualized in our world)…
    • then it is rational to infer that hypothesis A is correct (absence of surprising effect F is a form of confirming evidence for hypothesis A) and that hypothesis B is wrong (presence of surprising effect E disconfirming evidence against hypothesis B).
    • Once again, in particular, if E = not-F, then the truth of E is disconfirming evidence against hypothesis B.

  • In the scenario above…
    • At the very least, the presence of surprising effect E is disconfirming evidence against hypothesis B… (and effectively confirming evidence for hypothesis A over hypothesis B.)

  • Example (natural consequence):
    • Hypothesis A: The Earth is a Sphere.
    • Hypothesis B: The Earth is a Cube.
    • A natural consequence of Hypothesis A is that the shadow of the earth would be a circle (or an ellipse).
    • A natural consequence of Hypothesis B is that the shadow of the earth would be a square (or a polygon).
    • Observation (Effect E): during a lunar eclipse, as the shadow of earth passes over the moon, the shadow is observed to be an ellipse.
    • Epistemic Confirmation: Since a circular or elliptical shadow is a natural consequence of hypothesis A (that the earth is a sphere)…
    • therefore, it is rational to infer that hypothesis A is correct (effect E, the elliptical shadow on the moon, is confirming evidence for hypothesis A, that the earth is a sphere)
    • and it is rational to infer that hypothesis B (that the earth is a cube) is wrong …
    • in particular, since effect E (elliptical shadow) = not-F (i.e., not polygonal shadow)… therefore, the truth of E (elliptical shadow) is disconfirming evidence against hypothesis B (which says that Earth is a cube).

  • Example (surprising effect):
    • Hypothesis A: The Earth is a Sphere.
    • Hypothesis B: The Earth is a Cube.
    • Effect E = earth’s shadow on moon is elliptical or circular.
    • Effect F = earth’s shadow on moon is square or polygonal.
    • Now, effect E (elliptical shadow) would be a surprise (not expected) if hypothesis B (cube earth) were true,
    • and effect F (square shadow) would be a surprise (not expected) if hypothesis A (spherical earth) were true…
    • Observation (Effect E): during a lunar eclipse, as the shadow of earth passes over the moon, the shadow is observed to be an ellipse.
    • So, we observe that effect E (elliptical shadow) is true (real and actualized in our world), but that effect F (square shadow) is not observed to be true (we don’t see evidence of its being actualized in our world)…
    • Epistemic Confirmation: Therefore, it is rational to infer that hypothesis A is correct … absence of surprising effect F (square shadow) is a form of confirming evidence for hypothesis A (spherical earth) and that hypothesis B (cube earth) is wrong … presence of surprising effect E (elliptical shadow) is disconfirming evidence against hypothesis B (cube earth).
    • Once again, in particular, since effect E (elliptical shadow) = not-F (i.e., not polygonal shadow)… therefore, the truth of E (elliptical shadow) is disconfirming evidence against hypothesis B (which says that Earth is a cube).


Conclusion: What does it mean to be rational ? (Part I)
  • In conclusion, we asked the question “what does it mean to be rational?”
  • And we found that … the core of rationality requires adherence to the following principles:
    • Principle of Non-Contradiction
    • Principle of The Excluded Middle
    • Principle of Adequate Cause
    • Principle of Epistemic Confirmation
  • The article above described what these principles mean, and provided rational and irrational examples to illustrate the principles.

Continued in Part II
  • In part II of this article (separately presented) we will discuss three more principles.
    • Principle of Non-Self-Destruction
    • Principle of Internal Consistency
    • Principle of External Congruence