Short Essays: Rationalizing Irrationality

There is this baseless notion that in sadness and anger we think irrationally. I think this is itself an irrational idea.


Adrenaline heightens our senses. Take a soldier engaged in battle, they have to make instantaneous decisions. Are they thinking irrationally while they are fueled with rage as they carry their wounded brother to safety while being rained down upon with bullets and grenades? No, they don’t have the time to. They have to remain cool, focused and so-on, but they are still human. You cannot just erase anger in a high pressure situation like that, with so much going on and your life (and the lives of others) are in immediate danger. They are angry but rational, logical. They are implementing prior knowledge of how to navigate these scenarios – but they are still angry as hell.


Being in a state of anger or sadness does not necessitate an irrational response. For example, as someone who supports capital punishment, if a loved one or close friend was murdered by an individual/group, my desire for them to be executed would still be coming from an opinion I have already justified prior to the Event. My desire to carry out the execution myself to avenge the murder could not be considered irrational neither, they have ended the life of someone I care about, the desire for revenge towards someone who has caused you great pain is the least irrational position possible – I would argue that it is irrational to not want to engage in ‘an eye for an eye.’ Yes, we do change our minds sometimes after we have ‘cooled off.’ However, there are plenty of times where our emotionally charged logic does not change, indeed; it may solidify.

Irrational? Affatto! Human, all too human!


So what is an irrational thought?

I do not deny that in sadness and anger irrational decision making is possible, but I think we over exaggerate the entire notion of irrationality. A question: where do irrational thoughts stem from? This is to say, they must have a grounding within our mind already, is irrationality a revealing of our authentic self? They cannot come from nowhere. ‘Irrational’ thoughts are a response to an Event, a reactionary mechanism. But can irrational thoughts truly be entirely original, ‘on the spot’ conclusions? I highly doubt so.

On the spot decision making requires a pause while you apply reason to what I will call here a proposition (P), just for simplicity. The Event you are reacting to is a State of Affairs. My scenario, the State of Affairs, may seem inappropriate to people given recent events. However, it is the ideal scenario for the question of irrational decision making.

A terrorist attack has just occurred. You are currently in a State of Affairs that has thrown at you an immense amount of propositions. By propositions we mean potential reactions on how to act. You have to make split second decisions while screams, sirens, explosions and other noises are bombarding your ear drums – this alone makes decision making difficult, as we all know concentration is difficult while immersed in a noisy scenario. You are within a State of Affairs that is overloading you with emotions: anger, distress, despair, but you are a person who feels compelled to help others. Masked men with guns are in a corner discussing their next move as police and soldiers surround the building, people are hiding while others are held hostage. There is wounded people being tended to, you can help them. But, you notice once of the terrorists is lying next to you, dead, his rifle still on his body as the terrorists did not remove it. They are distracted in their argument in the corner, all huddled together, and they do not appear to be wearing bullet proof gear. Even if they are, their heads are definitely not covered except for some material disguising their faces. You are a hunter, you know how to handle the weapon – despite all the stress, rage, distress and so-on, would it be irrational to pick up that weapon and shoot the terrorists? There is a chance that they could shoot you, but you have the chance to end the current State of Affairs in which the existence of all people within that building is balancing on a piece of string between two sky scrapers?

You may die, some may argue it is irrational to put your life on the line, irrational that you are risking yourself and others by taking the chance to kill those terrorists: “let the law enforcement deal with the situation! You will only make it worse! You just want to e a hero!” I would argue “no. What should I do? Sit by and film everything on my phone, just like all the other people in this day and age filming the assault of someone in the street instead of being a decent human being and intervening!”

We sit by and video everything, this is irrational. When there is 200 people standing by and filming a lunatic with a knife slashing at innocent civilians I call those people irrational. There is 200 people who could swarm around that psychopath and beat the crap out of them. A few of you may get cut, so what? You have been injured while doing the right thing. You may get a cut on your arm, but there will be someone behind that person striking them from behind with a chair. The people intervening are the rational individuals, they see others in pain and react with justified malice to strike down the villain.

A terrorist attack occurred in Australia not that long ago, a homeless man with a trolley became a national hero when he risked his life to intervene in the attack. Worldwide he was called a hero. We know that what he did was a good thing, but how many people cheering him on and calling him a hero would intervene themselves instead of standing by and recording the incident in the hope of selling the video to the media? You cheer on the hero for trying to save the lives of others while engaging in selfish irrationality. A mob of people who could end the attack if they united as one to take down the enemy calls someone a hero for doing what they all should have done.

You identify the good deed while engaging in selfish idiocy – this is irrational.

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