What is rational? It is that which is based on or in accordance with reason and logic. What are reason and logic? Reason is the explanation of the ‘hows’ and ‘whys’ of an action or event. Logic is reasoning conducted or assessed according to strict principles of validity. Validity means the quality of being logically or factually sound. All these words aim at one thing, that is identifying the real nature of things and calling a spade a spade.
If you’re wondering about how to think rationally, following are 6 easy steps you can follow to start being a rational thinker.
1. Be a sceptic: Question everything no matter how popular or accepted things may be, but be polite. Ask for the premises behind the conclusions. But do not hang on the question when you get a genuine answer (the premises of which seem to be logically sound).
2. Slow down: Judging anything takes time. Take your time gathering appropriate data to have a ground to judge in the first place. There are a number of possible cause and effect chains which cannot be comprehended in just a couple of moments.
3. No defence: Do not defend your opinions (nor of anyone else). Opinions have to change if the evidence points to the opposite direction. This way you’ll never feel offended if anyone questions you or proves you wrong. If your argument overpowers that of the opponent, you win, if his argument overpowers yours (the premises of which are logically sound), it’s again a victory as you have a new but strong perspective that you didn’t think of previously.
4. Follow facts: You must not follow opinions. You’re to be guided by facts, that’s it. Even if someone claims to have opinions based on facts, still be a sceptic and ask for the premises and facts used to reach the conclusions or opinions. There is no authority for you other than facts.
5. You’re fallible: Accept that you can make mistakes even at the time when you’re sure that you’re not going to. So be ready to be pointed out as wrong. To be factually pointed out as wrong is beneficial (as in we can ask for the premises and if they turn out to be logically sound) as we can learn about our own loopholes and grow as a person.
6. Suspend judgement: Sometimes it may happen that either you have no credible evidence for a conclusion to follow or you have the evidence but it doesn’t seem to go in a particular direction. In such situations you should suspend your judgement. Also there is stuff about which we can’t know for sure, like the beginning of this universe and all. Even in this present moment, we cannot perceive each and every thing that is happening around us and so we can’t tell what it is and what it is not. Suspension of judgement is a peace pact with the limits of our perception.