This page is unfinished. It may be a mere placeholder in the book outline. Or, the text below (if any) may be a summary, or a discussion of what the page will say, or a partial or rough draft.
“Taking meta-rationality seriously” means recognizing that any use of rationality involves meta-rational activity as well. Doing meta-rationality deliberately, rather than mindlessly following implicit defaults, can bring great benefit.
As of mid-2020, Part Four is unwritten, although I have extensive notes.
- The invisibility of meta-rationality
- If this is so important, why has no one ever heard of it?
- Knowledge and understanding
- Meta-rational epistemology.
- When to get meta-rational
- Feeling for when to step back from rationality because meta-rationality is required.
- Meta-rational norms
- Reasonableness and rationality have qualitatively different sorts of norms; so does meta-rationality.
- Meta-rationality and Problems
- Finding, choosing, creating, and defining Problems that are formal enough to apply rationality to them.
- Opportunities for meta-rational improvement
- Foreshadowed in Part Three: its analysis of rationality into parts reveals the sites at which meta-rationality can operate on it.
- Meta-rational operations
- Evaluating, selecting, combining, modifying, discovering, creating, monitoring, and maintaining rational systems.
- Ontological remodeling
- Feeling for an ontology; creating abstractions; when to sharpen an ontology and when to melt one.
- System building
- Using Part Three’s understanding of the moving parts in rationality to guide construction.
- Engineering ontological infrastructure
- Revising the reasonableness/rationality interface.
- Reflection on purposes
- Taking responsibility for whys; questions of motivation, value, ethics, and power.
- Developing meta-rationality
- Becoming meta-rational requires personal transformation, much more than book learning.
- A research agenda
- Better understanding of meta-rationality requires empirical research, which may have extraordinary practical and intellectual returns due both to inherent leverage and prior neglect. I sketch a program of outstanding questions, plausible approaches, and resource requirements.
There is—and can be—no general method for meta-rationality; and its methods are necessarily nebulous. Nevertheless, there is much to say.
Where there are no general rules, a subject is often best explained with case studies. I expect those will be much of the content of the Part.
There is a difficulty, though. Typically case studies introduce or illustrate some simplistic principle that is supposedly extracted from them. That is impossible for meta-rationality, and would unhelpfully misrepresent it. A distinctive feature of meta-rationality is synthesizing a panoramic view of a system’s context and mastery of its intricate technical details to produce effective on-going activity in and around it. To accurately represent even one example of meta-rationality would require explaining far more specifics than is feasible. Writing this Part will, then, require a balancing act between falsifying the essence and overwhelming the reader with tedious details.