OXFORD, Miss. — The complex thinking patterns behind dictatorships, suicide terrorism and other irrational choices are examined in a new book co-edited by research center directors at the University of Mississippi and the London School of Economics and Political Science.
In “Beyond Rationality: Contemporary Issues” (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2011), scholars from a variety of disciplines — including psychology, philosophy, business and criminal justice — explore the concept of “irrationality” in an increasingly complex world. Combining both theory and practice, the essays provide useful insights into why citizens often readily support people and systems that ultimately undermine civility and humanitarianism.
Carl Jensen, director of UM’s Center for Intelligence and Security Studies, and Rom Harré, director of the Centre for the Philosophy of Natural and Social Science at the London School of Economics, served as co-editors of the volume.
“Rom is a world-renowned scholar in a variety of disciplines and I was thrilled when he agreed to be an editor. As it turns out, he’s very down-to-earth, exceptionally easy to work with and a great story teller,” Jensen said. “In a world that appears increasingly chaotic and unpredictable, understanding the irrational is essential. We hope our book helps provide meaning for those in academe, as well as the general public.”
Walter Flaschka, CISS network administrator, designed the cover of the book, which features “The Children’s Khorovod” (also known as “Barmaley Fountain”) photographed by Emmanuil Evzerikhin during the Battle of Stalingrad in World War II.
“The statue is based on a poem by Korney Chukovsky about irrational fear and suspicion of the unknown,” Flaschka said. “Evzerikhm’s photograph captures the possibility of innocent and happy life and the catastrophe of war and violence.”
Since entering into a partnership in 2009, both centers have sponsored “Beyond Reality,” a series of conferences that yielded the essays included in the book. The partnership was due in large part to the collaborative work of Marie Barnard, assistant dean of UM’s School of Applied Sciences.
“This is an example of how CISS is partnering with the top scholars in the world to collaborate on investigations that delve into issues related to our nation’s security,” said Barnard, who is also executive director of CISS and research assistant professor of health promotion.
A senior behavioral scientist at the RAND Corp., Jensen served as a special agent in the Federal Bureau of Investigation for 22 years. In the FBI, he worked as a field agent in the Atlanta and Cleveland divisions, a forensic examiner in the FBI Laboratory and an instructor-researcher in the Behavioral Science Unit.
Previous positions Harré has held include distinguished research professor at Georgetown University, university lecturer in the Philosophy of Science at Oxford University and fellow at Linacre College. He has been a leading advocate of psychology as a moral science, pioneering the new approach of positioning theory.
For more information on the Center for Intelligence and Security Studies, visit http://www.olemiss.edu/ciss/