Rationalism of Failure

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Rationalization of Failure

Aesop's short story "The Fox and the Grapes" tells of a fox failing to find a way to reach some grapes hanging high up on a vine. The story deals with the rationalization of the failure to attain a desired end. Rather than accept a personal failure by acknowledging our shortcomings or by unemotionally evaluating the circumstances that surrounded the failure, we rationalize and come up with an immediate excuse. We need to convince ourselves and everybody else who witnessed our attempts that the outcome was all for the best. Just like the fox, we actually prepare our egos and our witnesses to view a future failure as if it were actually the result we intended. In "The Fox and the Grapes", when the fox realizes he cannot leap high enough to reach the grapes, he rationalizes that even if he had gotten them, they would probably have been sour anyway. Rationalization is the process of constructing a logical justification for a decision, action or lack thereof that was originally arrived at through a different mental process. In Aesop's story, the fox says "they are but green and sour; so I'll e'en let them alone" (Aesop 386). This quote shows that the fox was searching for other justification to show that he didn't desire the grapes in the first place. Instead of whining and griping, he convinces himself that the grapes are unripe and not worthy for him.

The English idiom sour grapes that derived from this short story refers to the denial of one's desire for something that one fails to acquire or to the person who holds such denial. In Jon Elster's analysis of "The Fox and the Grapes", he says "Aesop focuses on what he calls the mechanism of sour grapes, where people become content with what they can get, which he sees as one way of reducing cognitive dissonance" (Elster 53). In this story, the idiom is applied to the fox that loses and fails to do so gracefully and denies the intention to win altogether. When preferences...
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