The Prevalence of Humbug and Other Essays by Max Black; Cornell University Press; Ithaca, NY.

One of the moderately interesting—and ultimately most annoying—things that one can do with a home computer is to put it into a GOTO loop. That is, a program is a series of steps. To make a loop, the final instruction is to go back to the first step. This will happen over and over and over again. Similarly, children often get into a GOTO loop, but in their case it takes the form of the repetition of “Why?” Give them one answer, and they’ll ask it again and again and again. Finally, just as one punches the QUIT button on the keyboard, one is forced to say, “Because I said so, that’s why!” One of the more trying questions that can arise in putatively adult discourse and lead to computer or child-like looping is ‘’Why should I be rational?” Certainly, the universe doesn’t seem to be exactly rational—at least that’s what quantum physicists, Einstein notwithstanding, tell us and on a more microscopic level, that of individuals functioning in society, it seems that those who act selfishly, meanly, sybaritically, and otherwise nonrationally (calculatingly, yes, of course) often have their cake, caviar, champagne, etc., and get to consume them, too. Max Black, Cornell University’s sensible philosopher (and thus a rare bird), has a suitable answer to the question, one that essentially says: because rationality is a defining characteristic of a human being, and if you don’t want to be one, then that’s your business. Black also delves into similarly vexing matters with such a verve that he makes one ready to consider looking at Wittgenstein through his companion to the Tractatus.