Reason and Culture: A Sociological and Philosophical Study of the Role of Rationality and Rationalism by Ernest Gellner
The disparity between the history of the idea of rationality - from Hobbes to Rawls - and what constitutes and has constituted "reasonable" behaviour form the subject of this book. The institutions of state - government, the law, the military - are based, in the West, on the principle that human beings, if not always reasonable, are at any rate capable of being rational: those who serve the state usually believe that their actions and decisions are also informed by this principle. This is the theory, but how then do we explain, for example, why it has so frequently happened that two countries supposedly acting in their own self-interest embark on a war which does both parties considerable harm? In the course of his investigation, Professor Gellner examines and compares the institutions and ideas of secular societies in which reason is believed to inform belief with those of avowedly theocratic (including Moslem) societies where belief informs reason.