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The Social Construction of Rationality

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Frantz Fanon once suggested, that the most odious form of colonisation, and that which has brought with it the greatest pain for the colonised is the colonisation of the mind - so that they have come to disbelieve and reject the most sacred precepts of their own traditional cultures and therefore their identities. This colonisation is deep, fundamental and is linked to the linguistic structures (and the structures of rationality and logic that support them). Since the Enlightenment, it has been a tradition in Western philosophical circles to promote the existence of a unitary form of rationality. That is, that there is one unquestioning form of rationality that is tied (in our case) to the precepts of logical positivism, and that any other form of discourse that lies outside these boundaries is, by definition, illogical, primitive and non-progressive. Critical Theory challenges this notion and demonstrates that our notions of rationality - like all other conceptual categories - is not essential, but is rather socially constructed. Furthermore, it demonstrates that normative conceptions of the rational are developed and shaped by the social relations of Capitalism and its colonial and imperialistic imperative. In this paper, I challenge received notions of the rational, and demonstrate how these current conceptions work to reinforce and reproduce existing power relations in society. Further, following Giroux and Habermas , I propose alternative models of rationality that exhibit transformative potential.

 

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