Analytical Processes for school Leaders
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Rationalism refers to a belief that opinions should be centered on reason and knowledge, rather than on religious belief or emotional situation. Rationalism considers reason as the main source and test of knowledge. Rationalists assert that truths exist which the intellect can capture directly, and reality itself has an inherent logical structure. According to rationalists, there are principles, especially in logic and ethics that are very important, such that denying these principles leads to contradiction.
One cannot study rationalism and exclude the concept of logic. Logic, therefore, refers to the study of valid reasoning. Few people care to study logic because everybody sees him/herself to be proficient enough in the art of reasoning. Experience alone teaches anything. Experience must be open to verification and reexamination. (Fixation of Belief, p.1)
Objective of reasoning is to discover from what we already know to what we do not know. Reasoning is good if it gives a true conclusion from true premises. (Fixation of Belief, p.2) By making use of laws of perception, we can ascertain by reasoning how things really are; and any person, if he has sufficient experience and he reasons about it, will be led to the one true conclusion. (Fixation of Belief, p.8) A premise is a sentence affirming or denying one thing of another. Every premise states that something either is, or must be or may be the attribute of something else. (Interpretation, pp 1&3) An affirmation is a positive assertion of something about something, while a denial is a negative assertion. Every affirmation has an opposite denial, and every denial has an opposite affirmation. (Interpretation, pp.3 &4) A simple conclusion is not reached unless both premises are simple assertions, but a necessary conclusion is possible, although only one premise is important. (Interpretation, p.12)
Drivers involved in bringing about a rational process of deliberation
Rationalism facilitates the process of deliberation because it is brought about in accordance with rules and satisfies well defined conditions. It is a process, that is, a repeatable series of steps which produce an outcome, which can be discussed as follows;
The main process for rationalism entails input, followed by process then lastly output. A series of inputs are taken through a process to produce an output. Experiences, opinions and facts are inputs. They are taken through the process of rationalism to produce a sound conclusion. Focusing on the inputs is not the end of the process. Special attention should be given to the process of rationalism which refers to what we do to the inputs. We should collect, organize and analyze them. People learn about rational thinking through experience. People are not able to outline the steps they go through while thinking. They are therefore not able to criticize their own thinking. They can however criticize the thinking of other people.
Rationalists argue that human beings have innate knowledge that is inborn knowledge. We possess basic instincts and basic concepts at birth. It is thus possible to build on this innate knowledge through rationalism. We are not born with minds that are blank slates. Human beings know some things even before they experience the world.
There are some truths that can be worked out independent of experience in the world. These truths, according to rationalists are not known innately. This mostly consists of logic or mathematical truths. One rationalizes them; they don’t really have to experience such truths.
Some truths are also not grounded on experience alone, but also on rationalism. For instance in aesthetics, two people might observe the same object, but come up with contradicting views with regard to its aesthetic value. Aesthetic values are not presented by experience, but by rationalism.
Obstacles involved in bringing about a rational process of deliberation
Rationalization is seen as a paradox. A paradox is a statement that in spite of reasoning from acceptable premises, leads to a senseless, logically unaccepted and self contradictory conclusion. The basis for rationalization, it is a priori assumption, is that increased efficiency and predictability is close to an increase in the ability of man to manipulate his environment, to overcome the chaotic aspects of life, in order to obtain a life which is considered better than the previous one. (Fixation of belief, p.7)
Concept of irrationality of rationality should be understood as follows; that growth of rationalized systems has a greater pronounced impact on our daily lives. Individualization which accompanies rationalization is the isolation process where people in the society are separated from one another by invisible barriers which are assumed to guide our relationships in ways that are not accommodative to an honest and meaningful human exchange. Behavioral uniformity seems to separate people into expressions of their own beliefs and values. This behaviorism, through rationalism explains inequalities among individuals in the society. As we strive to do away with chaos from our lives using rationalization, we are causing a lot of destruction to individuals and therefore a lot of inequality in the society.
Rational thinking is referred to as an invisible process. People regard it as something that cannot be broken down into various steps. In thinking, the focus is on collecting inputs, which are opinions and experiences, but not on how to analyze them. People tend to arrive at conclusions but they are not aware of the process of how they got to that particular conclusion. We learn about thinking through trial and error, which is an inefficient and costly way of learning. We are then forced to assess our success after this. It is therefore difficult to teach others the skill of rationality.
Besides, little knowledge can be transferred from one situation to the other, because we do not have a process to follow, since we view every situation involving new information as different and require a new approach.
One may start with known and observed facts to proceed to unknown, and yet rules which one follows in doing so may not be such as investigation would approve. The test to whether I am truly following this method is not an immediate appeal to my feelings and purposes, but it involves application of this method, hence, it is that bad reasoning as well as good reasoning is possible; and this fact is the foundation of the practical side of logic.
If we treat rational thinking as a process, that is, a series of definable, actionable, repeatable steps which produce a meaningful conclusion, we can achieve many benefits. For instance, we can help others improve their thinking abilities. We are able to teach others how to improve their own rational thinking. This is through helping them think through situations by teaching them a process. We can coach others in the steps required for rational thinking.
We can also make thinking a visible process. If we know how someone arrived at a conclusion, we can criticize our own thinking process and those of others. Besides, we can also break problem solving into individual steps that we are able to practice. We can improve our own thinking and those of others.
Cynthia T. & Benjamin Tregoe. Analytical Processes for school Leaders. Alexandria. 2001. Tregoe Education Forum Inc.
Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Rationalism vs. Empiricism. First published August 19, 2004.