Berkley Forum

The Irrationality of the Rational

Responding to Human Behavior, Catholic Social Thought, and Global Development

Economic theory argues on the basis of social norms that individuals are fully rational agents. For this reason, many people fall into the trap that all the activities and decisions human beings make are rational behavior.

However, human psychology and Catholic social thought tell us that both thinking and the way we make decisions differ between individuals, suggesting that humans are actually irrational in their thinking and their own personal preferences. One of these irrationalities is the human mind; some think individually depending on the situation, while in most decisions, humans think socially and collectively.

In today's world, materialism, as a part of human nature, has led selfishness to become a driving part of the economy. This same selfishness is what causes a lot of social damage. This is where Catholic social thought can play a major role in creating a better society.

As Kaushik Basu mentioned in his lecture, selfishness is not a good thing. Thankfully, the human instinct is to be cooperative, which leads to a social balance and a way of acting and thinking according to principles and values.

So what is human rationality? Probably the only rational thing is that our irrationality leads us to act cooperatively and always think of others. Social norms, especially Catholic values of respect, are thus irrationally helping to create a better society through solidarity with our fellow man. 
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