Myth of Irrationality

Myth of Irrationality

by John McCrone

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
McCrone ( The Ape That Spoke ) redraws the map of psychology in this iconoclastic, often provocative work. He labels as harmful fallacy the persistent belief, from Plato to Freud, that humans have an irrational, emotional core. Instead of Freud's model dividing the mind into ego, id and superego, McCrone advances a bifold model differentiating the mind's animal roots from its cultural components--self-awareness, language, thought, refined feeling, memory. Central to his theory is the ``inner voice'' with which we speak silently in our heads and which, McCrone argues, is instrumental to thought. Blaming the ``myth of irrationality'' for today's rampant individualism and cult of self-assertion, he advocates a self-aware, ``post-romantic'' approach to experiencing emotion. So-called feral children, the mental processes of the deaf and the neglected research of Russian psychologist Lev Vygotsky, who investigated the ``inner voice'' in the 1930s, provide grist for McCrone's thesis. (Aug.)
Zom Zoms
The belief that human creativity and emotion spring from deep wells of irrationality pervades Western culture. McCrone challenges this belief, boldly defying even the testimony of Plato, Aquinas, Wordsworth, and Freud. The problem, in McCrone's view, lies in the persistence of an inadequate model of the mind. Enlightenment thinkers such as Hobbes and Leibniz had begun to dispel the mysteries surrounding psychological processes when disciples of Rousseau and Freud arose to ridicule their faith in rational reasoning and to affirm the unfathomable strength--demonic or divine--of the untutored subconscious. McCrone aims to get the Enlightenment project back on track by advancing a "bifold" model of the mind in which culturally determined patterns of thought and feeling give a recognizably human stamp to the merely animal impulses derived through evolution. Such a model makes it unnecessary to invoke innate human irrationality when explaining artistic inspiration, impulsive humor, mysterious dreams, or even schizophrenia. Perhaps more important, when irrationality goes out the window, so, too, does the modern cult of rebellious individualism. Many defenders of poetry, religion, and psychoanalysis will find McCrone's reasoning too reductive. But he effectively forces us to look at an old debate from a new angle.

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Avalon Publishing Group
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