Short term logic, long and large term logic: the human rationality and telos

by Ana Bazac


As it is known, the scientists have distinguished the types of human rationality – practical, theoretical, formal and substantive, said Max Weber[1] – as well as the pattern of the human rationality: to always correlate the means and the end of an action and to make this correlation in the frame of/according to the values existing in a time span but, concretely, of those assumed by people.

When evaluating the human rationality, the researchers have focused on the means-end relations and the values acting as criteria in these relations, in an individual action. This action could be that of an individual following an end or that of a more or less large human group following an end, but rationality involves more than the above correlations at the level of individual actions.

The substantive rationality, emphasized by Max Weber, consists in the individual review, before starting the action, of the many values related to the individual choice: values as background, contradictory values, and hierarchies of values organized in patterns of value postulates according to the various social groups in different eras. The choice as such would be the preference for a certain value/set of values, and this preference is considered by folks rational or not, according to the existing value postulates. And it goes without saying that the review may be conscious and analytical, but also an instantaneous play of intuitions, different types of experiences transposed into deposited cognisance, exactly the mixture of this play and the conscious deliberation: but not this neuro-physiological origin is important here. Our target is the meta characterization of human rationality from the point of view of the horizons to which various logics arrive.


However, if the above model of Max Weber – end-means-values – is very good for the explanation of the rationality of the individual action, the question is what are the length/stretching of this individual action? And what does individual action mean, since, as it appeared before, it could pertain to both individuals and groups?

A difference between cunning and intelligence may help us. Both connect the ends to the means in order to arrive at these ends in the most economically manner. And both consider the values linked clearly to this process. But intelligence is more than cunning.

The craftiness is responsible for the success of a single action. It consists in the short term logic or the inference related exclusively to the deployment of the action according to the desire that, certainly, involves also the values related to the efficiency of this short term logic and single action. In this sense, the cunning is efficient, and some ones equate it with cleverness.

The whole human activity is constituted of n such types of short term logic manifestations. And for the humans using it are successful, they are considered very intelligent.

But intelligence is more, because it goes beyond the desired phenomenon or beyond the phenomenon just in front of the wily person.

Intelligence relates the individual actions – moved by the values concerning those individual actions – to deeper and larger causes than those of the individual actions.

But in the short term logic, when evaluating the legitimacy of the individual actions, people ask “why” have they arrived to those actions seeming to being necessary: questioning the directly tied phenomena in a linear series, each being the cause of the next, this serial succession suggesting the implacability of things and thus, that “there is no alternative”, that the “sly” behaviour following from the series is the only solution and that to adapt to quickly transpose it is the only sign and proof of viability.

At the level of concrete tasks, the short term logic is sine qua non: when we are at work we cannot think to our family, and when we solve a mathematical problem is useless to think to biology or metaphysics. Accordingly, it’s clear now what does an individual action mean: it is an isolated action, a specific action that people follow aiming at its fulfilment. And the individual logic/short term logic is related to a separate action based on a separated line of teleological logic/judgements relating the end, the means to that end and the values related to that end.


As everywhere, the problems arrive when people stop and go no further. Speaking about human responsibility (What is Enlightenment, 1874), Kant has insisted that while at work people must fulfill their duties – because otherwise there would not be any order whatsoever, necessary for the everyday life – after work people must think to both the meanings of their work and the larger meanings of the social fabric, and thus they may discern, criticise the things. The problems arrive when people do not relate the causal series beyond the concrete tasks they assume. This happened/happens in science: both in the tradition of well-circumscribed topics in the scientific investigations, and in the tradition of “normal science”, as Kuhn has called the research confined by certain paradigms. And obviously, this happened/happens in the conformist social behaviour at all the levels.

Thus, the cunning persons leave things to their will – anything goes, since the series of phenomena seem to be external to their will, and the only sound behaviour is only to adapt to them –. They adapt to the rules of the domains and legitimate with these rules/with adaptation to these rules the rationality of their actions.

In other words, the sly persons let things “choose”/ “decide” in their place. They do not choose, but the relations and institutions external towards them choose and decide. This is the deep alienation that Marx has explained as resulting from the modern/capitalist relations, while Heidegger as being the upshot of the modern technology and somehow of the human awareness of the limits of the human existence[2].


Certainly, the cunning persons choose: but mostly in the frame of serial reasoning and keeping their choices carefully in this frame.

But the logical model of this type of choice is short-sighted: it is similar to that of animals which either do not choose (if we use this verb as involving only consciousness) but adapt to the natural necessity, or choose within this necessity. Obviously, the animals react to the surrounding conditions, in different ways, but in all they correlate – both instinctually and reactively – the means to their concrete needs, and this model of stimulus-reaction and means-needs may somehow be equated with the causal and means-end-values model that is deployed in the logic of human action. The difference between humans and animals is, beyond the well-known peculiarities of man (logos as both judgement and language, which develop affectivity and creativity, translated through values), just this short-sighted pattern of reaction in the frame of natural necessity, that is specific to animals. Humans may behave in a very “terrestrial” manner, according to the short term logic that confers to the conditions/things the status of the implacable necessity. But they may also behave according to a different logic: not that of cunningness, but that of intelligence.


Consequently, we may sketch the long and large term logic: that which unites the series of the lines responding to “why?”, developing an integrated viewpoint, both in research and the practical life. In science, this view is tantamount to a revolution in paradigms and gave rise to inter-, multi-, and trans-disciplinary studies. Also, science has developed and refined new epistemic tools by the integration of different causal lines, because these epistemic (cognitive and probative) tools are efficient for the construction of scientific answers. Science is not value-free, certainly, but the scientific rationality appears from the confirmation process concerning the coherence and consistency of the scientific theories and the ways to arrive to them. This epistemological priority suggests that the freedom of research and the problem of application must be separated; science must be free to inquiry the most extraordinary problems, and the confirmation debates of the professionals must follow this absolute possibility of science; but as the application of scientific possibilities must be limited by the public values and debates, so the debates of the scientists must not mix the two kinds of values marking science: the epistemic and the social ones. In other words, as a social value cannot deny an epistemic value of the research, and vice versa, so the epistemic value must be followed all the way and in this process the epistemic means of probation must be cleaned by the social biases determined by the private lucrative interests.


But the long and large term logic is not only that which arrives to new qualities (of scientific theories etc.) from a honey bee practice of gathering, but also that which puts ab initio the qualitative challenge on the human actions. This qualitative challenge consists in the questioning of all the activities – therefore, of all the short term logic based actions and projects – from the standpoint of the telos. What purpose for? / What is the ultimate end of this endeavour? If the short term logic highlights the importance of opening for “the field of the possible”, as Pindar has formulated, for new and new correlations within, and even between, ordered causal series – nothing halting the why, and the clever persons advancing on this path – the long term human logic is rather negative. It shows, somehow as Plato said about the daimon, how to not behave, how to not act, but never imposes how to do: the (moral) consciousness of man is that which chooses. Logic is a system of patterns of thinking: not this system is responsible for the human actions, but the (moral) consciousness that, inherently uses logic.

As we remember, the values accompany – in fact, they are part of the whole process of thinking and deciding – the short term logic, too. In this sense, one might say that there is not about short term logic, since the values link the causal lines. But those values refer to the short term goals, irrespective of how far in the past and in the future they do put the human imagination. The most bold cosmology theories are constructed in this pattern of short term logic, following the why-s (obviously, letting here aside the types of values). The only value that interrogates the ultimate reason of planning, actions, deeds – what for? – is outside the logic of efficiency. The logic of efficient behaviour always takes place in the confines of the existing tradition of the succession of theories from close to closer or of cunning actions fulfilling instrumental tasks.

Because all the meanings are constructed by humans – the world as it is know is the world outlined and coloured by humans – the ultimate reason of things is the human being. The ultimate reason to be of his deeds is the what for? of the human life as such, the reason to be of the human life. Therefore, the above question is outside the logic of instrumentality of things: it examines just this logic.


Everything is related to values, but telos urges to reconsidering the paths. In this respect, the long and larger term logic is revolutionary for the human thinking and action.

Telos is a philosophical value. Science and technology develop their possibilities. Ordinarily, the possible is the “normal” no one could doubt. The human actions, too, develop their possibilities: but framed and braked by the power relations. The theoretical possibilities are not tantamount to the real human “field of the possible”. Telos comes from outside this field. Actually, it is the most subversive value challenging the human patterns of thinking and act. In this way, it opens a “new” field of the possible: the field of alternatives.

As it is known, Sartre has constructed the existentialist theory of human freedom: man is free, indeed, because he chooses, and is free only when he chooses. Behaving in such a manner, man creates himself and, inherently, the world, because by choosing, he creates a (new) situation: and all the situations require new decisions, new choices. But just by these new situations and choices, man creates alternatives.

            What kind of alternatives? The stake, the criterion and the pole towards the moral relativism is telos. But isn’t this too vague ? No : telos does not prescribe, it questions. The answers are given by people after harsh deliberations. And they arrive to the same result: the purpose of the human existence must be universalisable, if it does not pertain to a short term instrumental logic. The power relations have imposed the instrumental logic. In the frame of the power relations the humans have become cunning, following their serial end as if they could not transcend their frame[3]. But intelligence is to surpass cunningness: internalising the longer and larger term logic of telos. This logic makes people to create their reason to be. This creation is not a simple agglomeration of situations. If man is neither created by an external creature and nor the simple reflection of the (material) conditions, it is the single responsible for the contents of his life. Life is important, not the inexorable natural death. For the contents of the human life is no longer natural: it is given by man’s consciousness, choices and decisions. The theoretical formula of   Kant’s categorical imperative gives the principle to approaching the contents of the human life: the principle of the universalizability of the moral criteria of logic and action.

This principle urges to decide according to the telos: even when this decision seems to be impossible[4], and just for opening alternative ways (Badiou).



[1] Stephen Kalberg, “Max Weber’s Types of Rationality: Cornerstones for the Analysis of Rationalization Processes in History”, The American Journal of Sociology, Vol. 85, No. 5, 1980, pp. 1145-1179.

[2] This last aspect in Heidegger seems to invalidate his conviction that his philosophy is a radical criticism of the traditional essentialist metaphysics.

[3] Today, the fact that most people are cunning – including youth – a must not be seen as an ontological datum, but as the result of their entire education in the frame of power relations.

[4] In the trail of Sartre, Jacques Derrida, Sauf le nom, Paris, Éditions Galilée, 1993, p. 109, said : (« je ne peux penser une voie sans la nécessité de décider là où la décision paraît impossible ») “I can not think a way without the need to decide where the decision seems impossible”.

Short term logic, long and large term logic: the human rationality and telos

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