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Should I Use Logical or Rational?

 

Posted by Jake Magnum | February 15, 2018 | This or That?

 
Logical or Rational
Many people use the words logical and rational as though they are perfectly synonymous. Both terms denote using one’s sensibility and reasoning abilities. Indeed, the definition of rational is, “having or exercising reason, sound judgment, or good sense.” (Dictionary.com.)

While it is true that being logical also involves these characteristics, the definition of logical (unlike that of rational) is quite specific: “according to or agreeing with the principles of logic” (Dictionary.com)

In other words, rational thinking is any thinking that is done with a level head. It is a relatively general term and, thus, should be used when speaking generally, as in the following example.

“As Mary became more and more emotional, Frank realized it was important for him to use rational thinking.”

To use the word logical instead of rational in the above example would not be quite right. While Frank has determined to use reason and good judgment, we don’t know if he is going to use any logical principles while he thinks.

For logical to be the best term to use, the context would need to make it clear that Frank actually uses some form of logic. This is the case in the example below.

“As Mary became more and more emotional, Frank realized it was important for him to use logical thinking. From the time he and Burt were kids, any code or password Burt had ever come up with was the name of someone important to him. Frank also knew that Burt never used the same password twice, and he was sure Burt would have already used Frank’s and Mary’s names, as well as those of his close family before this place was even built…”

In this example, Frank uses deductive reasoning (a logical principle) in his thought process, and so logical is a better choice than rational to describe his thinking in this passage.


References:

logical. (n.d.). Dictionary.com Unabridged. Retrieved February 14, 2018 from Dictionary.com website http://www.dictionary.com/browse/logical

rational. (n.d.). Dictionary.com Unabridged. Retrieved February 14, 2018 from Dictionary.com website http://www.dictionary.com/browse/rational