to reason methodically and logically with conscious, deliberate inference

Es­ti­mated reading time is 4 min­utes.

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).


Sherlock Fernandez 500 crop

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].”)


Sherlock Fernandez 600 crop2

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 . . .


Sherlock Fernandez full 1000

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.


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