Quick Guide to Being More Rational

Don’t be an irrational person…think! Develop habits of thinking well, and engaging the world with everything you have: mind and body, body and soul, ideas with action, thinking with gratitude…

History shows that there is nothing so easy to enslave and nothing so hard to emancipate as ignorance, hence it becomes the double enemy of civilization. By its servility it is the prey of tyranny, and by its credulity it is the foe of enlightenment. ~Lemuel K. Washburn, Is The Bible Worth Reading And Other Essays (free)

God wants you to be fully human, and full humanity involves rationality. Here is a quick guide to this end: being more rational.

Vincent van Gogh, Still Life with Bible (1885), currently in Amsterdam

I Time Management

Life-Habits: Rationality requires habits. Habits require daily actions that reflect sober thinking and circumspection.

The Truth: You DON’T have time to read everything!

Nor do you want to spend the money on every book. Given this, focus on straightforward and concise resources, always refining your notions of relevant and irrelevant, for the purposes of efficiency and priority. 

 II Get the tools you need

Understand and give special attention to these aspects of the human condition:

1 Logic

2 Language

3 Clarity of Beliefs

4 Grasp of Limitations


Understand the basics of logic. Look up the difference between validity and logic onlineor buy an introductory book on logic (the shorter the better, you can study logic deeply later if you think it is worth it).


Start learning a second language and pay special attention to the differences in idioms between your native language and your second language. Communicating ideas involves casting your thoughts into words, and by focusing on this transition between ideas and words, the possible ambiguities, and the differences– this may enable you to more clearly think and articulate yourself. 

Know Your Beliefs

Understand what you believe and why you believe it. If you have no idea where you start, you might want to go get a cat-scan or an MRI, because you may be brain-dead (just joking). But really, you should be able to articulate your beliefs roughly (if you are an adult), and give reason(s) for your beliefs. Understand the difference between feelings about beliefs, and the beliefs themselves. Be able to scrutinize your motivations about your beliefs. Do you harbor a given belief simply because it makes you feel a certain way? Or do you believe something strictly because it fits with your experience? These are tricky questions.   

Start with these ‘Categories of Beliefs’

God, the universe, the laws of physics, anthropology, ethics, politics, aesthetics, logic, language, paradox….

Look these things up. Think about what they mean and why they are important to you, to the world, to human life. If you think any of these categories are unimportant to human life, then you don’t understand them. 

III Wrapping Up the New Information 

 Convert Knowledge Into Activity 

 Incorporate your studies into activities with other people and with your daily tasks. If you can’t possibly see how any of the activities pertain to your life, then you probably don’t have a good grasp of them. 

IV Daily Habits

-The Beginning of a Long Journey

Habits require patience and persistence. Analyze your daily habits and compare them to your understanding of a rational person (this notion will be refined as you continue to think). 

-The Ideal: Every thought pursues standards of right thinking

Right thinking is not merely throwing out the word ‘logical’ and ‘reasonable’ every other sentence. Very often people misuse the word because they fail to understand the concepts properly. ‘Reasonable’ and ‘logical’ doesn’t mean ‘unemotional’ or ‘detached’. Logical means something much less. ‘Logical’ simply means that conclusions follow from premises. This can be done emotionally or in a detached way.

More broadly, being a rational person describes an emphasis of priorities and values AND daily habits. What this means is this. A rational person understands and pursues his priorities and values, and pursues those values and priorities with some understanding, with daily habits that reflect clear thinking.  

 No one is perfectly rational. This is impossible. So, ‘rational person’ is a salient description (not an absolute description). Salience means ‘stands out’. A salient description is not something pure and monolithic. A heroic person is not someone who is saving people 24/7. A drunk is not necessarily always drinking. A saint is not someone who is morally perfect. However, the hero is saliently the person exhibits heroic behavior, such that his behavior demonstrates his virtue; the drunk’s addiction defines his character, even if there are rare moments that he is sober; the saint is still a sinner, but he is one that struggles boldly in the devotion to be as sinless as possible. So, a salient description is about relevant characteristics that define a given person, even if it is not perfect. 

The rational person, then, is a similar description. A rational person may be irrational at times. He may make mistakes and do something stupid. A rational person is still human in a flawed state. But the rational person, saliently, looking over the common paths in human history, is one that thinks and acts with presence of mind and reason. 

Being virtuous requires rationality. It is the beginning of a longer journey.

V Take Initiative

If you don’t actively pursue something, then you don’t value it. If your actions don’t manifest your value system, then you lack integrity and are divided. Integrate your mind with all of your daily activities. 

-Help Others

Help others think through their beliefs, their motivations for their beliefs and their daily habits. Be critical and loving (these are not contraries). 


Discuss things with an eye to right thinking, according to conscience and reason.

-Value the Intellect

Analyze pursuits in life, and ask yourself if those pursuits glorify or debase the intellect. Humanity has a rational component. Without this component full humanity is impossible. A full life is impossible. 

-Value Integrity

Contemplate how your mind and body, beliefs and actions, emotions and goals, fit together. They can and they should fit together. If you can’t see how, then you need to think about what integrity means. 

 Did I miss something? Please tell me, so that future visitors may benefit the most from this information. 


Originally posted 2011-10-24 12:39:17. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

About Darius Styl

Lay Christian theologian and amateur philosopher.
This entry was posted in Aesthetics, Anthropology, Darius Styl, Education, Ethics: Righteousness, Habits, How-to Articles, Language, Logic, Mathematics, Psychology, Romantic Rationalism, Theology, Thoughts, Vocation and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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