Tag Archives: rationalization

Kevin Simler & Robin Hanson

Shortly after his 23rd birthday, Kevin was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. For a while he was extremely reluctant to talk about it (except among family and close friends), a reluctance he rationalized by telling himself that he’s simply a “private person” who doesn’t like sharing private medical details with the world. Later he started following a very strict diet to treat his disease—a diet that eliminated processed foods and refined carbohydrates. Eating so healthy quickly became a point of pride, and suddenly Kevin found himself perfectly happy to share his diagnosis, since it also gave him an opportunity to brag about his diet. Being a “private person” about medical details went right out of the window—and now, look, here he is sharing his diagnosis (and diet!) with perfect strangers in this book.

Kevin Simler & Robin Hanson, The Elephant in the Brain: Hidden Motives in Everyday Life, Oxford, 2018, p. 104

Alexis de Tocqueville

[U]n homme politique […] cherche d’abord à discerner son intérêt, et à voir quels sont les intérêts analogues qui pourraient se grouper autour du sien; il s’occupe ensuite à découvrir s’il n’existerait pas par hasard, dans le monde, une doctrine ou un principe qu’on pût placer convenablement à la tête de la nouvelle association, pour lui donner le droit de se produire et de circuler librement.

Alexis de Tocqueville, De la démocratie en Amérique, Paris, 1840, vol. 1, pt. 2, chap. 2

Benjamin Franklin

[I]n my first Voyage from Boston, being becalm’d off Block Island, our People set about catching Cod and hawl’d up a grat many. Hitherto I had stuck to my Resolution of not eating animal Food; and on this Occasion I consider’d with my Master Tryon, the taking every Fish a kind of unprovok’d Murder, since none of them had or ever could do us any Injury that might justify the Slaughter.– All this seem’d very reasonable.–But I had formerly been a great Lover of Fish, and when this came hot out of the Frying Pan, it smelt admirably well. I balanc’d some time between Principle and Inclination: till I recollected, that when the Fish were opened, I saw smaller Fish taken out of their Stomachs: Then thought I, if you eat one another, I don’t see why we mayn’t eat you. So I din’d upon Cod very heartily and continu’d to eat with other People, returning only now and then occasionally to a vegetable Diet. So convenient a thing it is to be a reasonable Creature, since it enables one to find or make a Reason for every thing one has a mind to do.–

Benjamin Franklin, The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, London, 1973, pt. 1

Ludwig von Mises

Keynes was not an innovator and champion of new methods of managing economic affairs. His contribution consisted rather in providing an apparent justification for the policies which were popular with those in power in spite of the fact that all economists viewed them as disastrous. His achievement was a rationalization of the policies already practiced. He was not a “Revolutionary,” as some of his adepts called him. The “Keynesian revolution” took place long before Keynes approved of it and fabricated a pseudo-scientific justification for it. What he really did was to write an apology for the prevailing policies of governments.

Ludwig von Mises, ‘Lord Keynes and Say’s Law’, in Planning for Freedom, and other essays and addresses, South Holland, Illinois, 1952, p. 69

Norman Finkelstein

[I]t is impossible to rationalise to oneself why you should have a meaningful and satisfying life, and these people have to endure a meaningless and horrifying life. It is impossible to rationalise, unless you consider yourself a superior human being and deserve better[.]

Norman Finkelstein, ‘How to Lose Friends and Alienate People’, Counterpunch, December 13, 2001