another publication by IMAGE asia

Applying Rationality: Developing better principles...   By Desmond Hughes

Developing better principles, law & people

  Bangkok / Phuket Boat Lagoon

It might be rational, even if you don’t believe in God or a God, to believe, because the chances of a reward in heaven if you don’t believe in any God at all are almost zero, but the chances if you do believe are higher, and you will lose nothing of the reward by believing.

This is a long-established rational test argument and can be used in the face of criticism that religion is simply ‘irrational’. Religion and religious beliefs transcend rationality because many who do hold such beliefs are able to suspend physical and scientific matter, and focus on spiritual and wellbeing gains, which might in the long run, make them better off. There are of course, many arguments to the contrary. This example was provided in one section of Steven Pinker’s recently published book, “Rationality: What It Is, Why It Seems Scarce, Why It Matters”. Thoughts on rationality are intrinsically linked to how we wish to frame societal governance structures, including law, and whether or not we can advance to a kinder and more enlightened form of humanity.

Strangely, most people actually think they are rational, but vary in the accuracy of their assessment based on the extent of their inherent bias and prejudices. There are sensitive topics which trigger a more irrational response from a person who might ordinarily analyse a non-controversial issue with a more detached rationality. If we think of others, we might tend to postulate that ‘most people are irrational’ but excluding ourselves from the ‘most people’ in our analysis. This is where arrogance, ego, prejudicial biases and the nastier edges of personalities can overshadow the qualities of the human race that have resulted in an overall progression from hunter‑gatherers to daily Instagram photo posters.

The nastier traits and personalities are those that we, when acting rationally, would not want to be activated when we are being judged as to whether we have violated a law – civil or criminal – or when we are being governed or dealt with by civil servants and agencies of the state who are in some countries meant to assist people for the better. However, if we activate those nastier egotistical traits regularly, this will reverberate in our societies and create a dominant force which will shape law and the people we encounter.

The evidence of this natural phenomena in practice can be seen in how humans have behaved towards each other during the outbreak of COVID19. Many people have tried to help others, have given up their time to assist the impoverished, or as a daily routine are frontline workers willing or required to take more risk than others in the line of duty.


On the flipside, many have used opportunities from the pandemic to exploit their fellow humans for political gain to exert excessive or abusive power over citizens, commit violations with impunity, shun, cast aspersions or humiliate humans infected with a virus, or financially exploit fear through the sale of ineffective protective items or even re-use infected items for sale to innocent victims of fraud.

All in all, we can see at each stage of challenges to human existence or operations, that there are good players and bad. Perhaps this has always been the case and each day that passes is a simple re-framing of history in new modern clothes – a world with Electric Vehicles, 5G, 3D Printers and scientists and medical experts who can produce vaccines for a global pandemic in less than a year from the outbreak.
During this time, many have turned towards notions of demanding greater freedoms, after facing excessive and irrational restrictions on freedoms with superbly blunt societal management tools such as ‘lockdowns’, ‘curfews’, mandatory vaccinations and restraint on travel and access to family and support systems. These freedoms include work-from-home rights, recently championed with vigour in Portugal with strong legislation protecting workers’ free time, and an emphasis on access to ‘wellbeing’, either in the simple form of additional time to exercise, or with more sophisticated forms of delivery through meditation, coaching, counselling, and a variety of remedies designed to mitigate the stress that modern humans are under.

This behaviour is a new form of rationality, combining short term gratification with a longer term view that short term gratification should remain partially important, because death’s door is never far away.

Rationality could therefore be viewed as a series of bets based on a set of beliefs, values and principles and the reality of a situation. If you knew you had a short time left to live, would you take that time to exploit as many people as you could, or spend time with loved ones and still make an effort to be a better person before you depart?

One part of Pinker’s book, which remains important in all critical thinking, is Bayesian reasoning – that is including a ‘base’ in your calculation which will or could fundamentally change the outcome and therefore a decision based on probable or actual outcomes. In order to obtain an ‘accurate base’, it is important to conduct multiple experiments in similar, equivalent and different circumstances, and critically analyse outcomes.

This type of reasoning is fundamental because if we are to be judged by others in a court, in society, advised on our legal rights, or made subject to new laws and regulations to address societal needs or state exploitation of society, the ‘base’ requires an understanding of the degree of uncertainty in a calculation and not simple maths.

The next time we find ourselves thinking that someone else definitely is acting irrationally, we should check ourselves, assess our inhehent weaknesses and bias, re-assess and re-configure our ‘experimental analysis’ of others, obtain more information, verify, use an appropriate base to make a conclusion and be willing to potentially change our minds if the facts or circumstances change.

This is why some criminals deserve second and third chances in society, why bankrupt people will not always fail in business, why overweight people are not inherently ‘lazy’, why those infected with a virus don’t “deserve what they got and must have made a mistake we wouldn’t have made”, why those that suffer violence didn’t necessarily provoke it, and why people are innocent…until proven guilty.

 Contact info:

Hughes Krupica Consulting

Hughes Krupica Consulting Co. Ltd
23/123-5 Moo 2 Kohkaew Plaza
The Phuket Boat Lagoon
T. Kohkaew Amphoe Muang
Phuket 83000 Thailand
Tel: (0) 76 608 468

Hughes Krupica Consulting (Bangkok) Co. Ltd
29/41 Soi Ladprao 22
Ladprao Road
Chankasem, Chatuchak
Bangkok 10900 Thailand
Tel: (0) 20 771 518

[email protected]