The Non-Rational, Beyond the Limits of “Unaided Rationality”


“Unaided rationality,” a concept of Gregory Bateson in his “Steps to an Ecology of Mind,” allows us to see there are limitations to rational perception.  What is amenable to rationality is  very limited.   West Churchman went on to estimate that the world susceptible to the limits of reason is about 10%.  The other 90% involves the domains of religion, politics, aesthetics, etc., what he calls the “non-rational.” Bateson thesis was that that the limits of rationality needed assistance.

The faces of small children illustrate the richness in all that comes from and returns to the human mind in all its complexities and mythologies. Thus we have three ways of thinking about human perception. Clearly the non-rationality, politics, arts, religion, etc., is a major part. Just as clearly the rational is a long standing standard for reducing the complex to the simple, even if wrong or misapplied. The third way is the irrational. What is it?  It the rational is to relate to each other and our immediate surroundings and the non-rational is to relate to the cosmos, what is this troublesome way of the irrational? Herein the irrational is what happens when we attempt to harshly fit the non-rational into the rational and  retain it there. It escapes as the irrational, doing much harm to others and itself.