Irrationality and illogic are often equated, but this assumption is incorrect. While logic is based on rationality, irrationality goes far beyond purely factual considerations. This article will take a closer look at what rationality and irrationality mean and how they impact on a psychological, behavioural and physical level.
Rational, irrational and physical: explanations of terms
Rationality refers to the mind and its ability to draw conclusions from given information. It is based on facts, data and comprehensible arguments. In this sense, rationality is based on logic.
In contrast, irrationality refers to ways of thinking and behaving that cannot be explained by rational considerations. Irrationality is emotional, often controlled by the unconscious and not guided by a clearly visible logic - but this does not make it illogical. It can manifest itself on different levels of the human being: psychic, behavioural and physical.
The term "physical" refers to processes in the body that can be explained rationally. For example, it can be explained why muscles enlarge during exertion or why body temperature rises when fever occurs. These processes can be explained rationally and are therefore not an example of irrationality.
Irrationality on the psychological level
Within the psychological, irrationality often manifests itself in the form of fears, phobias or compulsions. These mental states often defy logical explanation and are instead the result of emotional factors that are more deeply rooted in the individual's personality. Cultural and social norms can also promote irrationality at this level.
In our behaviour, irrationality can occur, for example, in decision-making processes. Often it is not logical arguments that influence a decision, but emotional factors such as fear or trust. People often tend to make decisions based on feelings or experiences rather than purely rational considerations. Irrationality can also manifest itself in beliefs or prejudices based on emotional factors rather than factual arguments.
Irrationality within the physical
On a physical level, irrationality can manifest itself in the form of psychosomatic complaints. These are physical symptoms that are caused by emotional or psychological causes. An example of this is the connection between stress and stomach pain or back pain. Irrationality plays a role here in that physical phenomena that can be explained rationally are caused by the action of the psyche without there always being a clear, demonstrable reason. The definition at this point is rather delicate, because supposedly logically tangible reasons such as stress are often cited. At the same time, however, one must be aware with such terms that such issues are highly individual and therefore usually elude a universally valid logic.
Well-being and sustainability: How irrationality can influence our actions
Irrationality can influence our actions in many ways. Especially in our behaviour regarding our well-being and sustainability, irrational ways of thinking and behaving can often play a major role.
In relation to our well-being, irrational thoughts and emotions can make us feel bad or even make us sick. Negative thoughts and stress, for example, can weaken the immune system and cause physical ailments. Conversely, a positive attitude and relaxation can improve well-being and even contribute to faster recovery from illness. This goes beyond the purely physical, as there can obviously be a great deal of interaction with the psyche in both the positive and the negative, e.g. negative experiences can lead to psychosomatic symptoms, which in turn put additional strain on mental health. It is therefore important to be aware of how our thoughts and emotions influence our well-being and to pay attention to them accordingly.
In terms of sustainability, irrational thought patterns and behaviours can also have negative effects. An example of this is the so-called "tragedy of the commons", a social science and evolutionary model around the phenomenon that common goods such as water, air or forests are often overexploited because each individual wants to gain advantages from them without thinking about the consequences for the community. This behaviour is often based on short-term thinking and irrational assumptions. To create a sustainable future, it is important to focus our thoughts and actions on long-term consequences and to realise that our decisions have an impact on society and the environment.
It remains to be said that irrationality is not a kind of illogic (at best rather a hidden logic that cannot be seen or explained). We cannot explain or decide everything by rational considerations. Often it is emotional or unconscious factors that influence our thoughts and actions. It is important to acknowledge and accept this in order to develop a better understanding of ourselves and others. However, we should also be aware that a great deal of rationality is necessary in many areas of our lives in order to make sensible decisions and sustainably promote our well-being and that of society and the planet.