Rationality in the Flesh

The research project is intended to investigate the hypothesis that the body has its own kind of rationality. 

Irrationality is often held responsible for our biased treatment of people of different races and genders, and faults in decision-making. However, recent empirical research shows that irrationality is sometimes preferable to rationality: even simplest decisions, like choosing a meal from menu, cannot be made by emotionless reasoning only; religious faith helps to recover from surgery and is conducive to mental health; faith in success of a relationship makes it more successful. These findings challenge a standard conception of rationality, according to which following reason is a reliable path to knowledge and wellbeing. Is our conception of rationality wrong? I argue that to understand such cases we have to take the role of human body into account. Body affects human cognition and decision-making through emotions, intuitions, etc., that often go unnoticed by our conscious mind. When offered to choose an object, people prefer that on their right hand side without realising that. Such circumstances, as left and right, insubstantial for rational decision-making, have crucial importance for our body. Bodily influence is structured and predictable, thus I hypothesise that body has its own kind of rationality. This study will develop and test this hypothesis by analysing the cases of irrationality with positive and negative outcomes. It will involve a re-reading of empirical material of religious studies and psychology through the lens of  the hypothesis of bodily rationality.


Dr Elena Kalmykova

Project start September 2020

Senast uppdaterad: 2023-07-28