Irrationalism is a philosophical movement that focuses primarily on the irrational components of reality and the intellect of knowledge. Irrationalism is the direct opposite of rationalism. Rationalism is the philosophical theory that everything should be rational. For example, opinions and actions should be evidence-based and fact-checked.
Irrationalism recognizes the importance of being rational and understands the concept of rationalism. However, by taking their theory further, irrationalism takes what rationalists believe in and expands the concept to be more useful in pursuing knowledge. Irrationalists include and emphasize feelings, intuition, and an emotion-based school of thought.
However, there is a form of extreme irrationalism that believes anything rational should not be associated with human existence, as it poses a negative outlook. Extremist of irrationalism feels that life itself is irrational and absurd. Someone who believes in the irrational theory looks upon rationalism as a disruption of humanity’s development by negatively, hindering our progress.
The Inception of Irrationalism
Other philosophers have encountered many notions of irrationalism throughout the history of philosophy, but nothing specific has been recorded throughout philosophical texts. The only evidence of irrationalism is in the form of questions and debates regarding knowledge. Philosophers such as Descartes, Spinoza, and Leibniz questioned knowledge by trying to understand the foundation and what it entails, but it all points toward being reasonable and rational. The actual inception of Irrationalism came to be in the 19th and 20th centuries. Which was To challenge the notion that reason is the primary source of all knowledge. Some of the popular philosophers that delved into irrationalism were Søren Kierkegaard and John Locke.
The main components of irrationalism to attain knowledge are through:
- Innate knowledge
What sparked irrationalism was due to the enlightenment era. The enlightenment era intellectually and philosophically dominated Europe through the 17th and 18th centuries. It was a time when knowledge was pursued and purely obtained by reason and evidence. However, enlightenment was a black-and-white approach to knowledge. Anything that was not backed by science was thrown out of the equation.
The Flaws of Rationalism
Irrationalism agrees with rationalism’s approach to knowledge. However, rationality claimed to be the primary source of knowledge. Irrationality disagreed that analytical and scientific reasoning was the only method to achieve knowledge and find definitive answers. Irrationalists insisted that rationalists were limiting their viewpoints and that they could only go so far with their reasoning. Without traits such as intuition, faith, and curiosity, rationalists were limiting themselves in their pursuit of knowledge. For example, just because something cannot be analytically explained based on evidence does not mean something is not worth researching and expanding its realm of knowledge.
Irrationality was a favored philosophical movement within the religious community, prayer, and faith were not characteristics that would have been acknowledged by rational methodology. It is impossible for someone who identifies as logical to have an analytical view of religion. How can someone gather data or test religious experiences when there isn’t anything to test? Religion is a faith-driven structure where the individual worships within a community but has a relationship with God, which cannot be rationalized on a scientific level. Irrationality answers the religious experience that is often questioned by its believers.
The Philosophy behind Irrationalism
Rationalists believe that what we know in our reality must be methodically tested to be correct. And that, knowledge can only be intellectually grasped with logic and reasoning. However, regardless of how rational someone is, they have feelings, intuition, and emotions that are considered irrational. Still, to an irrationalist, emotions and feelings are considered knowledge or, at the very least, a path to a knowledgeable discovery.
When a scientist is experimenting, they must go through a rational process known as the scientific method:
- Create a question
- Conduct research
- From a hypothesis
- test experiment
- Record and analyze data
- Communicate results to see if a hypothesis is true
However, for scientists to form the question in the first place and create a hypothesis, they must engage in irrational thinking. The philosophy behind irrationalism doesn’t discount the feeling inside of us. We all have a hunch, we all have that gut feeling that tells us exactly what our brains are trying to articulate, and of course, we all have that driving force that doesn’t make sense. Irrationality can give us a quick and easy answer until we have a true understanding of what we are trying to convey.
The importance of Irrationality
Being rational is an essential thing to do when it comes to all aspects of life, but nothing in this life is absolute. There are many things we are discovering each passing day, and just because rationality is the preferred path to knowledge does not mean that it needs to have checks and balances put in place to challenge the idea of rationality, and that’s the importance of Irrationality.
We live in an irrational universe that doesn’t make sense. Everything that we know today was an illogical thought that could not possibly be true. But, because irrational individuals keep true to their way of thinking, the irrational has become a rational sense of knowledge embedded within our daily life.