The Voluntary Life: 244 Thinking Rationally Part 2: Imaginary Creatures and Machines

30 April 2016

244 Thinking Rationally Part 2: Imaginary Creatures and Machines

The biggest challenge of thinking rationally is not learning new techniques, it is overcoming irrational and anti-rational ways of thinking. In Part 1 of this series, I talked about how religious faith conflicts with your rational faculty. This episode is about a secular way of thinking that will derail your rationality. It is a way of thinking about society that seems to be very rational, but is in fact an abuse of reason. Listen to the episode to find out more!

Show Notes:
The Counter Revolution Of Science by Friedrich Hayek

Listen To Episode 244


  1. Hi Jake,

    Really love your podcasts. Thank you for taking the effort to put these together, they're extremely informative and though provoking, especially your recent ones of philosophy.

    In your recent podcast, one thing that I struggled with though was that you made claims that treating society as a system and try to engineer or design it is morally flawed. Your argument here wasn't really clear to me. I can understand that you might say that engineering society is immoral, or maybe that it doesn't work in practice, but you didn't really provide examples to illustrate that. Instead, as I understood it, you sort of claimed that it was illogical to take a system level view of society. One thing that occurred to me is that you can probably engineer the behavior of animals through their environment and incentives, and in as much as humans are an evolved version of animals, in practice this will probably work with humans as well. Again, I'm not sure if you were making a statement about the morality of social engineering, or the logic of it, which to me seems harder to criticize if it works in practice.

    Overall this podcast was really fascinating, but some more examples motivating your claims of the logical flaws in socialism would be really interest. Please do continue this theme as its really interesting, especially because philosophy forms the basis for our whole framework of thinking and reasoning.

    1. Hi Raphael, thanks for these great questions. I'll try to respond to these in the podcast, possibly as a combined Q&A episode covering at the end of this series on thinking rationally.

    2. Here is an example which thoroughly demolishes the imaginary idea of a 'social contract': . It uses the same logic Jake used on 'society'.

      My biggest objection, is that if you can conceptually model something that is bigger than its parts, then why not? We all know atoms compose matter, but we don't treat solids as trillions of atoms when calculating physics like gravity. The larger model is useful in cases. But ignore this for now and read my linked propaganda first.

  2. I've been thinking about this more and think I understand it better now. Let's take a two equivalent statements:

    1. Government should subsidize healthy activities to promote the wellbeing of society.
    2. An adult should take another adult's money and only give it back to them if they exercise to the satisfaction of said first adult.

    Statement 1 seems harmless and well intentioned. Statement 2 is obviously condescending and treats the second adult like a child, depriving them of their rights and freedoms to make their own choices as an adult.

    For me this example really illustrated that although using conceptual constructs like government and society can make communication easier and can be a shorthand for something that in reality is complex and multifaceted, it can also lead to incorrect reasoning once you imbue the concept with a life of its own and treat it like a real thing, for example talking about the 'wellbeing' of society.

    1. Exactly! Here is another example of how collectivist ideas lead to incorrect reasoning and immoral conclusions: