Is a Rational Politics a Real Possibility?
It is important to question the assumption, practically universal in works on political theory, that both political theory and politics are rational. In various articles Hwa Yol and Petee Jung have insisted on a broad conception of political rationality, influenced by both Eastern and Western traditions—that of phenomenology being especially prominent. In an article about voluntary association that Hwa Yol Jung reprinted in an anthology that he edited, I attacked oversimplified views of rationality, notably the equation of the latter with what voluntary agents with adequate knowledge would ideally agree upon. It is evident that the meaning of “rationality” varies greatly among individuals, but it is hard to escape the conclusion that, by almost any measure of rationality, the human race as a collective has repeatedly acted irrationally on a grand scale over its comparatively brief history. Some examples of this are offered, concluding with the civil wars and NATO intervention in former Yugoslavia and the long-standing United States atomic policy of “Mutually Assured Destruction.” But perhaps the most threatening of all human irrationality, for the long run, is the destruction of our ecosystem, in opposition to which Hwa Yol and Petee Jung have proposed an attitude of “ecopiety.” While pessimism about the future of the human race seems strongly justified, the very pervasiveness of irrationality in politics suggests that anything is possible—even, perhaps, the ultimate triumph of ecopiety.