Note on Terminology: "Rationality", not "Rationalism"

by Vladimir_Nesov 1 min read14th Jan 201151 comments


I feel that the term "rationalism", as opposed to "rationality", or "study of rationality", has undesirable connotations. My concerns are presented well by Eric Drexler in the article For Darwin’s sake, reject "Darwin-ism" (and other pernicious terms):

To call something an “ism” suggests that it is a matter ideology or faith, like Trotskyism or creationism. In the evolution wars, the term “evolutionism” is used to insinuate that the modern understanding of the principles, mechanisms, and pervasive consequences of evolution is no more than the dogma of a sect within science. It creates a false equivalence between a mountain of knowledge and the emptiness called “creationism”.

So, my suggestion is to use "rationality" consistently and to avoid using "rationalism". Via similarity to "scientist" and "physicist", "rationalist" doesn't seem to have the same problem. Discuss.

(Typical usage on Less Wrong is this way already, 3720 Google results for "rationality" and 1210 for "rationalist", against 251 for "rationalism". I've made this post as a reference for when someone uses "rationalism".)