Article by Adrien Adelphos

Drinking subject's paradox: an insight into selective self-irrationality

Concrete exploration of the notion of Self-irrationality


    The situation can be described as follows: a subject (S) knows that she should not drink more alcohol units than X (U(n) < X) in order not to become sick while enjoying the pleasant and salutary effects of alcohol consumption. However, by consulting our own experiences and intuitions, it seems that the subject drinking certain alcohol units U(n), such as U(n) < X, begins to believe the following formula: U(n) > X can also be a condition of alcoholic satisfaction. But this is not the case. The subject is in the following paradoxical situation: she knows before the moment of drinking (t0) that she should not drink such that U(n) > X. However, after t0, at t1, such as U(n) < X ʌ U(n) > 0, she believes that U(n) > X is likely to give her an additional satisfaction at constant growth. It appears from this state that alcohol consumption causes a specific form of selective irrationality about alcohol consumption in relation to alcoholic enjoyment. Other activities such as eating lobsters, playing petanque, or dancing an instance of polka do not have this self-irrationalizing property (indeed, producing polka instances through coordinated body movements does not imply diachronic self-irrationality of the subject).

    We can formalize the paradox in this way: S knows at t0 that only U(n) < X can be the condition of her alcoholic satisfaction. However, S falsely believes at t1 that U(n) > X can produce a steady increase of alcoholic satisfaction. As a result, the very activity of satisfaction leads the subject into a complex paradox involving the progressive irrationality of the subject. The subject cannot therefore engage in an activity that is a priori conceived as rational, since she will be constantly subjected to the diachronic self-irrationality that the very fact of starting to drink implies. To get out of this paradox is only possible through an external agent with a positive epistemic charge, such as a sober drinking companion, an angry bartender or her partner, for example.

    An attempt should be made to extend this model of selective self-irrationality to other aspects of human existence, such as drugs, but also video games, chess, etc. I therefore invite the reader to experience the full extent of this paradox in order to allow a number of discoveries in relation to the rationality of the human mind.