Irrationality - A History of the Dark Side of Reason

Hosted by the Marshall Institute

Online public event


Professor Justin E. H. Smith

Professor Justin E. H. Smith

Professor Richard Bradley

Professor Richard Bradley



Professor Sir Julian Le Grand

Professor Sir Julian Le Grand

Julian Le Grand will talk with Justin E. H. Smith about his new book, Irrationality - A History of the Dark Side of Reason.

Irrationality ranges across philosophy, politics, and current events. Challenging conventional thinking about logic, natural reason, dreams, art and science, pseudoscience, the Enlightenment, the internet, jokes and lies, and death, the book shows how history reveals that any triumph of reason is temporary and reversible, and that rational schemes, notably including many from Silicon Valley, often result in their polar opposite. The problem is that the rational gives birth to the irrational and vice versa in an endless cycle, and any effort to permanently set things in order sooner or later ends in an explosion of unreason. Because of this, it is irrational to try to eliminate irrationality. For better or worse, it is an ineradicable feature of life.

Meet our speaker and chair

Justin E. H. Smith (@jehsmith) is Professor of the history and philosophy of science at the University of Paris 7–Denis Diderot. His books include The Philosopher: A History in Six Types.

Richard Bradley is Professor of Philosophy in the Department of Philosophy, Logic and Scientific Method at the London School of Economics and Political Science. His research is concentrated in decision theory, formal epistemology and the theory of social choice but he also works on conditionals and the nature of chance. His book Decision Theory with a Human Face, recently published with Cambridge University Press, gives an account of decision making under conditions of severe uncertainty theory suitable for rational but bounded agents.

Julian Le Grand has been Professor of Social Policy at the London School of Economics and Political Science since 1993. From 2003 to 2005 he was seconded to No 10 Downing St to serve as Senior Policy Adviser to the Prime Minister. He is the author, co-author or editor of over twenty books, and more than one hundred refereed journal articles and book chapters on economics, philosophy, and public policy.

More about this event

The Marshall Institute (@LSEMarshall) works to improve the impact and effectiveness of private action for public benefit through research, teaching and convening.

You can order the book, Irrationality - A History of the Dark Side of Reason(UK delivery only) from our official LSE Events independent book shop, Pages of Hackney.

Twitter Hashtag for this event: #LSEIrrationality

Podcast & Video

A podcast of this event is available to download from Irrationality - A History of the Dark Side of Reason.

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