Aristotle defined humans as "the rational animal." I'm thinking a lot about rationality these days because one of the primary assumptions of mussar is that we are controlled by irrational impulses that are deeply resistant to conscious, rational attempts to overcome them. The class this week (Thursday night, at Har HaShem) will explore the idea of the unconscious as described in the writing of Rabbi Israel Salanter and Sigmund Freud. Musar is a method for understanding the place of these unconscious drives in our personality and actions and then rehabituating the spirit to overcome (repress?) them.
In any event, a fascinating article in this week's New Yorker (abstract here) had a particular resonance because of my thinking about these things. Lehrer reflects on a recent movement among a small number of scientists in various fields who are raising questions about the use of the scientific method.
Neither the mussar writing nor the article point toward the conclusion that rationality is hopelessly lost. Merely that it is much more elusive than we think.