RATIOCINATIONS OUT OF THIN AIR was the subtitle to this otherwise eponymous website. The second part of this sub-title was (is?) (will be?) “observations, recollections, and a few recommendations.” Hoping that you have noticed that while this site is chock full of observations accompanied by an occasional recollection, recommendations have not been a regular feature.
This pattern will probably remain the same for a while, although I may start throwing a movie or book review in to be able to continue to claim that the use of the word recommendation in the heading is justified.
Now then, have you looked up that fancy first word, ratiocination? If not, here is some information on a word that should become a part of your understanding of the world in which we all interact …
Ratiocinate is “correctly” pronounced at least three different ways (what else did you expect from the English language?):
1. Emmasaying: ra-shē-o’-sə-nāt
2. Word Hippo: rad-o’-sə-nāt
3. Oxford Dictionaries: ra-tē-ˈō-sə-nāt
As a verb, to ratiocinate means “to reason methodically and logically” (Free Dictionary).
Conscious deliberate inference
As a noun, Wiktionary’s definition of ratiocination is more detailed:
• Reasoning; conscious deliberate inference; the activity or process of reasoning.
• Thought or reasoning that is exact, valid, and rational; proposition arrived at by such thought.
The etymology of ratiocination is simple: from the French ratiocination, from Latin ratiocinatio (“reasoning, argumentation, a syllogism”), from ratiocinatus, the past participle of ratiocinari (“to reason”).
The use of the word ratiocination is rare in the everyday American language. As for the actual act of ratiocination—well, one could argue that it’s not used all that often by a lot of people, especially certain subsets of people.
In the video below from The Today Show, we can find an example of one man ratiocinating his way through an interpretation/explanation—and granted that it is beyond irony and well into sarcasm and condescension—of another man’s seeming inability to ratiocinate.
A total lack of experience
At 4:33, Sean Hannity presents us with an anecdotal (hypothetical?) account in which he confuses an apparent inbred, systemic racism and what I can laughingly describe as a total lack of experience (regarding one’s behavior when confronted by an armed police officer) with logic and reason.
At 4:58, Jon Stewart begins ratiocinating over and through Hannity’s statements (and sarcasm is all but unavoidable). Stewart also plays clips of several other notable political pundits (Bill O’Reilly especially) and addresses their astoundingly obtuse and/or racist statements with his usual panache.
While the ten-minute video resounds with quotable statements from Mr. Stewart, there are two that stick out for me. The first is his response to Linda Chavez (1:55), who states, “This mantra of the unarmed black teenager shot by a white cop. You know, that description in and of itself actually colors the way in which we look at this story.”
To which Stewart ironically and condescendingly ‘agrees’ with her by paraphrasing her statement: “Describing the actual facts of the case really does color the way we look at it.” (You have to be there …)
This redundancy perfectly captures the situation that so many progressives face when dealing with the bizarre take on facts and events by our rightwinged neighbors. In fact, I used it as the introduction to my posting of this video on my Facebook page.
The second comes when a couple of Fox News anchors ask (what I assume they intend to be rhetorical), “Why aren’t we covering black-on-black crime?” (2:50) This allows Stewart to make the hilarious observation that “When it snows where you live [it] doesn’t mean the world isn’t getting hotter.”
(And yes, that second sentence is grammatically awkward when transcribed—just substitute “Because” for “When” and we have a better sentence and no need for my editorially inserted “[it].”)
Always good to meet someone new
Yesterday, I introduced myself to a young man with whom I share a workspace. He enthusiastically shook my hand and said, “It’s always good to meet someone new!” And I remarked that it told me a lot about him that he believed that to be so and we ended up in a brief conversation about what I call positive projection: seeing positive facets of oneself in others. That is, it is the opposite of psychological projection, which is the projection of one’s negative qualities onto others.
While researchers from Freund through today’s psychiatrists and psychologists have spent entire careers on negative projection, few seem interested in positive projection. But I have always noticed that when reasonably happy people meet a new person, they simply and automatically assume and act as though the new person is also reasonably happy.
Likewise, miserable people tend to believe that everyone else is miserable but does a helluva job masking it.
Likewise, scared people tend to think that everyone else is as scared of life as they are.
Likewise, ratiocinating people assume that everyone else is capable of ratiocinating but simply choose not to.
What if that simply is not true?
What if, let’s just say, half the human race cannot—not will not!—but actually cannot consciously, deliberately infer because they completely lack “the capacity for consciously making sense of things, for applying logic, for establishing and verifying facts, and for changing or justifying practices, institutions, and beliefs based on new or existing information”? (Wikipedia)
Think about it: if such were the case, then it would explain so much that seems otherwise inexplicable …
FEATURED IMAGE: The drawing at the top of this page is Sherlock Holmes, one of the most famous of all ratiocinators. Art by Elia Fernández.