The Rationalist Version

Of course these management whizzes did not come into being by accident. John Maynard Keynes famously wrote that “practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influences, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist.” People of modest human understanding were the slaves of a long philosophic tradition. This tradition,rationalism, tells the story of human story of the progress of the logical, conscious mind. It sees human story as a contest between reason, the highest human faculty, and passion and instinct, our animal natures. In the upbeat version of this story, reason gradually triumphs over emotion. Science gradually triumphs over emotion. Science gradually replaces myth. Logic wins over passion.

In Classical Greece and Rome, according to this narrative, the party of reason made great strides. But after the fall or Rome, the passion reasserted themselves. Europe fell into the Dark Ages. Education suffered, science lay formant, superstition flourished. Things began to pick up again during the Renaissance with the developments in science and accounting. Then, during the seventeenth century, scientists and technologist created new forms of machinery and new ways to think about society. Great investigators began to dissect and understand their world.

The methaphor, “the world is a machine,” began to replace the mepaphor, “the world is a living organism.” Society was often seen as a clock with millions of moving pieces, and God was the Divine Clock-maker, the author of an exquisitely rational universe.

Extracted from The Social Animal, David Brook


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