The virtue of rational behaviour in society


There is an African proverb that says that, “If a man wants to grow a long tooth, he should have the lip to cover it”.

Although this saying basically means that whoever makes a decision should have the ability to handle its consequences, it also refers to the issue of rational behaviour in any circumstance.

Rational behaviour can be viewed as having the ability to commit one’s convictions, values, goals and actions based on reasonable thought. In the economical perspective, everything has a price, and an opportunity cost. These can be quantitative or qualitative. Let me elaborate:

On 7 March, during the law of tort lecture, a phone went off with probably the loudest ringtone I have ever heard. As I sat in the backseat, annoyed by the interruption, the lecturer requested the culprit to give themselves up, which none heeded. Annoyed, she simply moved out promising not to come back to the class until further notice.

So it got me thinking, what is the opportunity cost of giving yourself up for the greater good? If your next best alternative is to keep quiet with the mischief, then the opportunity cost of not giving yourself up is the loss of time and money foregone by the whole class! Other losses could be being eventually found out and given greater punishment than necessary; or ultimately being expelled by the university senate for indiscipline.

To counter irrationality, one must use reason consistently. Failure to do so creates long term problems such as hooliganism, since one’s knowledge is often not applied well to various experiences and perceptions.

Rationality does not mean being a perfectionist in one’s thoughts and ideas. It does not require you to spend enormous amounts of time evaluating every idea. Simply apply logic to any circumstances you are faced with, and act humbly.

Doing the right thing at the right time benefits not only you but also those around you.

The author is a third year student of law at UCU

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