Pournelle Chart - Criticisms of The Model

Criticisms of The Model

Some have criticized the model for the pejorative use of the word "irrational". However, the "bottom" of the scale could more specifically be seen as representing the belief that human rationality cannot perfect society (see Postmodernism vs Modernism). For example, the conservatism of Edmund Burke would be near the middle on the left-right scale, but near the bottom on the "rationality" scale (3/1', in Pournelle-style notation), because Burke believed that human society was not perfectible and was skeptical about initiatives intended to improve society. Since Pournelle himself has opinions not very different from those of Burke, it is clear that the term "irrational" is not intended as a pejorative. Pournelle noted that the belief that all societal problems can be solved rationally may not itself be rational. It may similarly be argued that the bottom of the top-bottom spectrum represents not a rejection of reason's power to solve scientific/technical problems (Pournelle is a technology enthusiast), but rather of its utility in forming the community and determining its sense of fundamental purpose.

In fact, Pournelle himself uses the terms "rationalism" and "anti-rationalism", not "rational" and "irrational". The web page "The Pournelle Political Axes" makes this clear.

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