In his new book, “Irrationality: A History of the Dark Side of Reason” philosopher Justin Smith presents a fascinating narrative that reveals the ways in which the pursuit of rationality often leads to an explosion of irrationality. Smith, a professor of the history and philosophy of science at the University of Paris, acknowledges that we are living in an era when nothing seems to make sense. Populism is on the rise, pseudoscience is still around and there is no shortage of of conspiracy theories. Smith discusses the core of the problem that the rational gives birth to the irrational and vice versa in an endless cycle, and any effort to permanently set things in order sooner or later ends in an explosion of unreason. He notes that despite the fact logic and reason are well understood, methods and practises that were supposed to have been setup to counter irrationality, ended up mired in the very problem that they were meant to solve, and that is irrationality.
“Irrationality: A History of the Dark Side of Reason” is rich and ambitious and ranges across philosophy, politics and current events. It challenges conventional thinking about logic, natural reason, dreams, art and science, pseudoscience, the Enlightenment, the internet, jokes and lies and death and shows how history reveals that any triumph of reason is temporary and reversible, and that rational schemes often result in their polar opposite. Smith argues that it is irrational to try to eliminate irrationality and describes irrationality an ineradicable feature of life. It has been an absolute pleasure speaking with Professor Justin Smith in this episode of Bridging the Gaps. This has been a fascinating conversation.