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January 02, 2012

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Jim Milles

Really? I wouldn't accept the premise of the question. I've too often seen charges of irrationality used to shut down women at faculty meetings who are "too emotional" and "take things too personally." "Irrationality" is notoriously loaded with gendered assumptions.

Bridget Crawford

Good point, Jim. I was thinking more about scenarios where a faculty member maintains a position in the face of evidence to the contrary. To use an absurd example, Professor X might say, "I am the only one who can teach Course Y, so we need to hire someone else who can teach Course Y, to lift the burden from my shoulders." The Academic Dean might offer, "Ten capable, existing faculty members with experience in this area have expressed an interest in teaching Course Y, so I do not think it is necessary to hire someone who can teach in this area." Professor X's position -- that Professor X is the *only* person who can teach Course Y -- is irrational. What I do accept as rational is that Professor X may not want to teach Course Y; Professor X may not like the way any of the ten colleagues might teach Course Y; or Professor X might think that Course Y is the most important course in the whole school. But that Professor X is the only one who can teach it? No way.

Jeffrey Harrison

Hmmm. It seems like rational and truthful are being confused here. Irrational means logically inconsistent. For example, I like apples more than pears and pears more than oranges and oranges more than apples. Or, I really want to lose weight: Please hand me that jelly doughnut. If Professor X knows he is not the only one he is not irrational, just lying, If he assumes he is the only one he is just being a law professor which, in its own way, can be even worse. Of course, maybe X is right in effect because the Dean could be just saying what is necessary to get X to stop telling the truth.

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