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In some policy and scientific circles, optimization has become a synonym for rationality. What cannot be optimized is, in such a paradigm, the subject of passions rather than reason. In particular, reason is of little use in defining goals of human action, becasue optimization already presupposes those goals. In this view, the only contribution of reason to the definition of human goals is to highlight inconsistencies between specific goals. Even then, we should not expect reason to be of any help in resolving these inconsistencies. Now one may hope that the passions will by and large lead humans to pursue goals which are consistent both at the individual and at the social level, and that no major problems of goal definition arise in practical decision making. The passions then would be a gift of nature which would help human beings to overcome the narrow limits of the faculty of reason. Reality tells otherwise: history is full of experiences which suggest a much gloomier picture. Often, the passions seem dangerous, irrational forces driving human beings to use the powers of reason for destuctive ends. A few generations from now, climate change may be one more such experience.

Additional information

Authors: JAEGER C C ET AL, JRC Ispra (IT);FUNTOWICZ S, Research Methods Consultancy, London (GB);RAVETZ J,
Bibliographic Reference: Article: Human Choice and Climate Change : An International Assessment (1996)
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