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Rationalization, or supportive/post-hoc justification, is the process of creating of expounding a rational-sounding explanation to support a predetermined conclusion.

Rationalizations typically cherry-pick their premises, ignoring key pieces of information which would otherwise lead to a different conclusion.

As an Accusation

Note: possibly this should be a separate page, since it is primarily this specific usage which is a rhetorical deception.

Rationalists are often accused of being rationalizers, and rational arguments are often accused of being mere rationalizations.

Any factual explanation necessarily involves a reasoned argument. If that reasoning is irrational in some way, then identifying the irrationality is a valid refutation of the argument. If no irrationality can be identified, then calling it a "rationalization" is not really justifiable.

Although rationalists (i.e. people who are trying to think and behave rationally) are quite capable of making rationalizations, the mere accusation of such is not a valid refutation and is arguably a form of rhetorical deception in that it distracts attention from the substance of the argument by interposing the emotionally-laden question of the speaker's credibility.

The only legitimate criticism of an argument claiming to be rational is to identify some part of it which is irrational or inaccurate.