Once upon a time it was common to differentiate humans from the rest of creation by calling us “rational animals.” Animals differ from plants, minerals, fungi, bacteria, machines, etc., and in important ways our human differences are differences we share with other animals. The tradition specifies further that we differ from all animals by our rationality. We are rational, they – apes, dolphins, frogs, flies, fish, etc. – are not. we’ve since learned that things are a bit more complicated, proposing numerous other ways of thinking of humans. One recent study is Alasdair MacIntyre’s Dependent Rational Animals. It’s well worth consideration.
While I think it is correct to speak of human rationality (as a preacher/teacher/blogger/parent I appeal to it), I’m more convinced than ever that an exclusive focus on human rationality leads to many difficulties. I don’t have time for a full exploration of my thoughts (there I go being rational again!), but I’m currently prodded in that direction by a TED talk by Sir Ken Robinson. We in the church do a lot of education. We surely need to educate the minds of disciples. What our minds do and how they function is important. But I don’t think our mind work alone will make fully devoted followers of Jesus. I also think that if we focus only on the mind, the mind work itself will fail.
Here’s the TED video. What do you think?