Last week, IBB released the Arabic version of Steven Pinker’s book: Rationality: What It Is, Why It Seems Scarce and Why It Matters on our Bayt Al Hikma 2.0 Arabic site. Why does this book matter? In a region where tribalism, sectarianism, and religious law overrides science, logic, and rationality, this book is an eye-opener and a conversation starter for audiences who are looking to incorporate reason into their dialogues and decisions.
We at Ideas Beyond Borders believe that ideas produce positive change – and positive changes make our world a better place for everyone, not just a select few. Don’t just take our word for it! Below, we present multiple points of view from the book’s author, to the translators and IBB’s founder, Faisal Al Mutar. We hope you find inspiration and share Rationality with others!
From Professor Pinker:
“Rationality belongs to no nation, tribe, religion, or civilization. It is woven into the nature of ideas, determining how one truth leads to another, and how we can accomplish what we want. Rationality drives science, it guides us through life, and it is responsible for true justice and moral progress. All humans are capable of rationality, but only when we supplement the simple intuitions that nature gave us with the powerful tools of science, logic, and mathematics. I believe that all societies benefit when their people and their institutions become more rational, and I hope to do my small part in the countries in which my book Rationality is available.”
From The Translators:
“It was so exciting to see that Steven Pinker was publishing a book on rationality and to be granted the right to translate it into Arabic is such a great honor. The book was issued at a perfect time, during the COVID-19 era, with people everywhere accusing each other of being irrational and biased. The book refutes the arrogant view that homo sapiens are hopelessly irrational, and proves that hunter-gatherers are not to be blamed for modern irrationalities.
It continues to explain in the most illustrative ways possible how we can accommodate to the way the universe really is, using our most precious biological faculty, reason, and why that is of great importance for all of us. This mind-stretching book is definitely a must-read, and will remain so for countless years to come.”
“In a world that seems to be heading towards insanity in every aspect I can think of, this book gave me a glimpse of hope and it was joyful to read and translate.
And the journey of fully understanding all the topics it introduces, like the role of reason in our lives as human beings, for example, was very enlightening. ‘Rationality is uncool’, as stated by the book itself, so the idea of a book published in the Arab world challenging this thought could really change the status quo.
Rationality is not that popular a concept here, but I think this book is interesting enough to do something. Rationality can improve our lives, and that’s a fact, on the social, economic, political, and scientific levels, and hopefully, this book is what it takes to start the process.
“Rationality by Steven Pinker is a rich and well-structured work that I believe can be a good guide for people who want to think for themselves beyond what their intuitions might lead them to believe, much as they can be useful. It is so pertinent, in not only the West where its intended audience is, but also in the MENA region where one can easily draw parallels between examples of public and individual irrationality illustrated in the book and the ones one sees in real life and maybe even manifests.
I expect it will be well-received by the equivalent Arab-speaking ‘rational community’ as a great ally against the tide of ignorance, pseudoscientific hogwash, and dogmatic beliefs.“
“Because reasoning frees us from being trapped in fallacies, it enables the highest achievements of human rationality. Logic is a tool that can purify thinking, freeing it from the bugs that come with being a social and emotional animal.
Many informal fallacies come out of a feature of human reasoning manifested in our desire to win arguments. The real quest for justice should consist of increasing the sensitivity of the system, not its bias.
Rationality is a prerequisite to everything else, so it should be included, together with reading, writing, and arithmetic.
The ultimate explanation for the paradox of how our species could be both so rational and so irrational lies in the duality of self and other: our powers of reason are guided by our motives and limited by our points of view. Rationality is not just a cognitive virtue but a moral one.”
From IBB’s Founder – Faisal Saeed Al Mutar:
“When I met Professor Pinker with Melissa Chen over dinner in New York a couple of years ago, we mentioned to him that we would love Ideas Beyond Borders to be the leading organization for Enlightenment values in the Middle East.
Not only are Dr. Pinker’s values aligned with IBB’s, but he has also been a supporter of our work, donating the rights of his books and his own funds for our translation efforts, including Rationality. We are so honored to have him on our board of directors and as an ally of the organization since its inception.
The Arabic version of Enlightenment Now! was a great success. It was downloaded and printed by many people yearning for positive change in a region that is plagued by theocrats and authoritarians. We look forward to seeing the impact of Rationality in the Middle East!