About this topic
Summary

To be instrumentally rational is, roughly, to take necessary and effective means to one’s end. For instance, if you decide to give up smoking, it would be instrumentally rational to stop buying cigarettes, and to limit the time you spend around other smokers. It would be irrational not to take any means to this end. Instrumental rationality raises several sets of questions, including: (i) what are the principles of instrumental rationality? (ii) what is the normative status of the principles of instrumental rationality? (iii) might instrumental rationality be all of practical rationality?

Key works

Much recent discussion of this topic takes off from Bratman 1987, Broome 1999, and Korsgaard 1997. Kolodny 2005, Raz 2005, and Schroeder 2009 are central contributions to the subsequent debate. A different stream in the literature focuses on decision theory as a theory of instrumental rationality.Gauthier 1986 includes a classic and fairly accessible statement of this idea.

Introductions

  Show all references
Related categories
Siblings:
116 found
Search inside:
(import / add options)   Sort by:
1 — 50 / 116
  1. Paul Anand (2009). The Rationality of Intransitive Preference: Foundations for the Modern View. In Paul Anand, Prasanta Pattanaik & Clemens Puppe (eds.), The Handbook of Rational and Social Choice. Oup Oxford.
    Remove from this list |
     
    My bibliography  
     
    Export citation  
  2. Elizabeth Anderson (2009). Democracy: Instrumental Vs. Non-Instrumental Value. In Thomas Christiano & John Philip Christman (eds.), Contemporary Debates in Political Philosophy. Wiley-Blackwell. 213--227.
    Remove from this list | Direct download (2 more)  
     
    My bibliography  
     
    Export citation  
  3. Chrisoula Andreou (2014). The Good, the Bad, and the Trivial. Philosophical Studies 169 (2):209-225.
    Dreadful and dreaded outcomes are sometimes brought about via the accumulation of individually trivial effects. Think about inching toward terrible health or toward an environmental disaster. In some such cases, the outcome is seen as unacceptable but is still gradually realized via an extended sequence of moves each of which is trivial in terms of its impact on the health or environment of those involved. Cases of this sort are not only practically challenging, they are theoretically challenging as well. For, (...)
    Remove from this list | Direct download (4 more)  
     
    My bibliography  
     
    Export citation  
  4. Chrisoula Andreou (2014). Temptation, Resolutions, and Regret. Inquiry 57 (3):275-292.
  5. Chrisoula Andreou (2012). Self-Defeating Self-Governance. Philosophical Issues 22 (1):20-34.
  6. Chrisoula Andreou (2008). The Newxin Puzzle. Philosophical Studies 139 (3):415 - 422.
    A variety of thought experiments suggest that, if the standard picture of practical rationality is correct, then practical rationality is sometimes an obstacle to practical success. For some, this in turn suggests that there is something wrong with the standard picture. In particular, it has been argued that we should revise the standard picture so that practical rationality and practical success emerge as more closely connected than the current picture allows. In this paper, I construct a choice situation—which I refer (...)
    Remove from this list | Direct download (5 more)  
     
    My bibliography  
     
    Export citation  
  7. Chrisoula Andreou (2007). Understanding Procrastination. Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour 37 (2):183–193.
    Procrastination is frustrating. Because the procrastinator's frustration is self-imposed, procrastination can also be quite puzzling. I consider attempts at explaining, or explaining away, what appear to be genuine cases of procrastination. According to the position that I propose and defend, genuine procrastination exists and is supported by preference loops, which can be either stable or evanescent.
    Remove from this list | Direct download (6 more)  
     
    My bibliography  
     
    Export citation  
  8. Chrisoula Andreou (2006). Might Intentions Be the Only Source of Practical Imperatives? Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 9 (3):311 - 325.
    I focus on the broadly instrumentalist view that all genuine practical imperatives are hypothetical imperatives and all genuine practical deliberation is deliberation from existing motivations. After indicating why I see instrumentalism as highly plausible, I argue that the most popular version of instrumentalism, according to which genuine practical imperatives can take desires as their starting point, is problematic. I then provide a limited defense of what I see as a more radical but also more compelling version of instrumentalism. According to (...)
    Remove from this list | Direct download (5 more)  
     
    My bibliography  
     
    Export citation  
  9. Chrisoula Andreou (2006). Temptation and Deliberation. Philosophical Studies 131 (3):583 - 606.
    There is a great deal of plausibility to the standard view that if one is rational and it is clear at the time of action that a certain move, say M1, would serve one’s concerns better than any other available move, then one will, as a rational agent, opt for move M1. Still, this view concerning rationality has been challenged at least in part because it seems to conflict with our considered judgments about what it is rational to do in (...)
    Remove from this list | Direct download (5 more)  
     
    My bibliography  
     
    Export citation  
  10. Chrisoula Andreou (2005). The Voices of Reason. American Philosophical Quarterly 42 (1):33 - 45.
    It is widely held that instrumental reasoning to a practical conclusion is parasitic on non-instrumental practical reasoning. This conclusion is based on the claim that when there is no reason to adopt a certain end, there is no reason to take the means (qua means) to that end. But, as will be argued, while there is a sense of reason according to which the previous statement is true, there is another sense according to which it is false. Furthermore, in both (...)
    Remove from this list | Direct download (4 more)  
     
    My bibliography  
     
    Export citation  
  11. Chrisoula Andreou & Mark D. White (eds.) (2012). The Thief of Time: Philosophical Essays on Procrastination. Oup Usa.
    The essays collected in this volume explore procrastination in relation to agency, rationality, and ethics -- topics that philosophy is well-suited to address.
    Remove from this list |
     
    My bibliography  
     
    Export citation  
  12. Marcus Arvan (forthcoming). How to Rationally Approach Life's Transformative Experiences. Philosophical Psychology:1-20.
    In a widely discussed forthcoming article, “What you can’t expect when you’re expecting”, as well as in a forthcoming book, L.A. Paul uses the notion of transformative experience to challenge culturally and philosophically traditional views about how to rationally make major life-decisions, most specifically the decision of whether to have children. The present paper argues that if the problem Paul presents has no direct solution—if there is no way to defend the philosophically and culturally dominant approach to rational decision-making for (...)
    Remove from this list | Direct download (6 more)  
     
    My bibliography  
     
    Export citation  
  13. Kurt Baier (1988). Rationality, Value, and Preference. Social Philosophy and Policy 5 (02):17-.
    Gauthier's magnificent book erects a conception of morality, “morals by agreement,” on the foundation of his own theory of practical rationality. This is as it should be if, as he claims, following Hobbes and others, there is an initial “presumption against morality” and no theory of morals “can ever serve any useful purpose, unless it can show that all the duties it recommends are also truly endorsed in each individual's reason” , indeed, that it is a requirement of rationality that (...)
    Remove from this list | Direct download (5 more)  
     
    My bibliography  
     
    Export citation  
  14. Robert Bass, Maximizing, Satisficing and the Normative Distinction Between Means and Ends.
    Decision theory, understood as providing a normative account of rationality in action, is often thought to be an adequate formalization of instrumental reasoning. As a model, there is much to be said for it. However, if decision theory is to adequately account for correct instrumental reasoning, then the axiomatic conditions by which it links preference to action must be normative for choice. That is, a choice must be rationally defective unless it proceeds from a preference set that satisfies the axiomatic (...)
    Remove from this list |
    Translate to English
    | Direct download  
     
    My bibliography  
     
    Export citation  
  15. Robert Bass, Sunk Costs.
    Decision theorists generally object to “honoring sunk costs” – that is, treating the fact that some cost has been incurred in the past as a reason for action, apart from the consideration of expected consequences. This paper critiques the doctrine that sunk costs should never be honored on three levels. As background, the rationale for the doctrine is explained. Then it is shown that if it is always irrational to honor sunk costs, then other common and uncontroversial practices are also (...)
    Remove from this list |
    Translate to English
    | Direct download  
     
    My bibliography  
     
    Export citation  
  16. Stephanie Beardman (2007). The Special Status of Instrumental Reasons. Philosophical Studies 134 (2):255 - 287.
    The rationality of means-end reasoning is the bedrock of the Humean account of practical reasons. But the normativity of such reasoning can not be taken for granted. I consider and reject the idea that the normativity of instrumental reasoning can be explained – either in terms of its being constitutive of the very notion of having an end, or solely in terms of instrumental considerations. I argue that the instrumental principle is itself a brute norm, and that this is consistent (...)
    Remove from this list | Direct download (6 more)  
     
    My bibliography  
     
    Export citation  
  17. Simon Blackburn (1995). Practical Tortoise Raising. Mind 104 (416):695-711.
    In this paper I am not so much concerned with movements of the mind, as movements of the will. But my question bears a similarity to that of the tortoise. I want to ask whether the will is under the control of fact and reason, combined. I shall try to show that there is always something else, something that is not under the control of fact and reason, which has to be given as a brute extra, if deliberation is ever (...)
    Remove from this list | Direct download (8 more)  
     
    My bibliography  
     
    Export citation  
  18. Michael Bratman (2009). Intention, Belief, and Instrumental Rationality. In David Sobel & Steven Wall (eds.), Reasons for Action. Cambridge University Press. 13--36.
    Two approaches to instrumental rationality Suppose I intend end E, believe that a necessary means to E is M, and believe that M requires that I intend M. My attitudes concerning E and M engage a basic requirement of practical rationality, a requirement that, barring a change in my cited beliefs, I either intend M or give up intending E.2 Call this the Instrumental Rationality requirement – for short, the IR requirement.
    Remove from this list | Direct download (2 more)  
     
    My bibliography  
     
    Export citation  
  19. Michael Bratman (1987/1999). Intention, Plans, and Practical Reason. Center for the Study of Language and Information.
    What happens to our conception of mind and rational agency when we take seriously future-directed intentions and plans and their roles as inputs into further practical reasoning? The author's initial efforts in responding to this question resulted in a series of papers that he wrote during the early 1980s. In this book, Bratman develops further some of the main themes of these essays and also explores a variety of related ideas and issues. He develops a planning theory of intention. Intentions (...)
    Remove from this list | Direct download (3 more)  
     
    My bibliography  
     
    Export citation  
  20. Michael Bratman (1981). Intention and Means-End Reasoning. Philosophical Review 90 (2):252-265.
    Remove from this list | Direct download (4 more)  
     
    My bibliography  
     
    Export citation  
  21. Michael E. Bratman (2009). I Two Approaches to Instrumental Rationality. In David Sobel Steven Wall (ed.), Reasons for Action. 13.
    Remove from this list |
     
    My bibliography  
     
    Export citation  
  22. Donald Bruckner (2011). Second-Order Preferences and Instrumental Rationality. Acta Analytica 26 (4):367-385.
    A second-order preference is a preference over preferences. This paper addresses the role that second-order preferences play in a theory of instrumental rationality. I argue that second-order preferences have no role to play in the prescription or evaluation of actions aimed at ordinary ends. Instead, second-order preferences are relevant to prescribing or evaluating actions only insofar as those actions have a role in changing or maintaining first-order preferences. I establish these claims by examining and rejecting the view that second-order preferences (...)
    Remove from this list | Direct download (6 more)  
     
    My bibliography  
     
    Export citation  
  23. John Brunero (2012). Instrumental Rationality, Symmetry and Scope. Philosophical Studies 157 (1):125-140.
    Instrumental rationality prohibits one from being in the following state: intending to pass a test, not intending to study, and believing one must intend to study if one is to pass. One could escape from this incoherent state in three ways: by intending to study, by not intending to pass, or by giving up one’s instrumental belief. However, not all of these ways of proceeding seem equally rational: giving up one’s instrumental belief seems less rational than giving up an end, (...)
    Remove from this list | Direct download (7 more)  
     
    My bibliography  
     
    Export citation  
  24. John Brunero (2005). Instrumental Rationality and Carroll's Tortoise. Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 8 (5):557 - 569.
    Some philosophers have tried to establish a connection between the normativity of instrumental rationality and the paradox presented by Lewis Carroll in his 1895 paper “What the Tortoise Said to Achilles.” I here examine and argue against accounts of this connection presented by Peter Railton and James Dreier before presenting my own account and discussing its implications for instrumentalism (the view that all there is to practical rationality is instrumental rationality). In my view, the potential for a Carroll-style regress just (...)
    Remove from this list | Direct download (6 more)  
     
    My bibliography  
     
    Export citation  
  25. John Brunero (2004). Korsgaard on Motivational Skepticism. Journal of Value Inquiry 38 (2):253–264.
    Remove from this list | Direct download (6 more)  
     
    My bibliography  
     
    Export citation  
  26. John Brunero & Niko Kolodny, Instrumental Rationality. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
    Remove from this list |
    Translate to English
    | Direct download  
     
    My bibliography  
     
    Export citation  
  27. Michael Byron (ed.) (2004). Satisficing and Maximizing: Moral Theorists on Practical Reason. Cambridge University Press.
    This collection of essays explores two competing views of practical rationality. How do we think about what we plan to do? One dominant answer is that we select the best possible option available. However, a growing number of philosophers would offer a different reply. Since we are not equipped to maximize, we must often choose the next best alternative--one that is no more than satisfactory. This strategy choice is called "satisficing" (a term coined by the economist Herb Simon).
    Remove from this list | Direct download  
     
    My bibliography  
     
    Export citation  
  28. Michael Byron (1998). Satisficing and Optimality. Ethics 109 (1):67-93.
    It is common, though perhaps not correct, to think that practical rationality is strictly instrumental.1 The functions of instrumental reason include finding suitable means to our determinate ends, helping to determine our indeterminate ends, and implementing our principles in appropriate actions. One reason that might be given for adopting instrumentalism with respect to rationality might be that our best scientific evidence offers little support for the idea that our brains have powers to detect good and bad as such in persons, (...)
    Remove from this list | Direct download (8 more)  
     
    My bibliography  
     
    Export citation  
  29. Ruth Chang (1997). Incomparability and Practical Reason.
    Remove from this list |
     
    My bibliography  
     
    Export citation  
  30. Ruth Chang (ed.) (1997). Introduction, Incommensurability, Incomparability, and Practical Reasoning. Harvard University Press.
    This paper is the introduction to the volume. It gives an argumentative view of the philosophical landscape concerning incommensurability and incomparability. It argues that incomparability, not incommensurability, is the important phenomenon on which philosophers should be focusing and that the arguments for the existence of incomparability are so far not compelling.
    Remove from this list | Direct download  
     
    My bibliography  
     
    Export citation  
  31. Ruth Chang (ed.) (1997). Incommensurability, Incomparability and Practical Reason. Harvard University Press.
    And what are the implications for moral and legal decision making? In this book, some of the sharpest minds in philosophy struggle with these questions.
    Remove from this list | Direct download (2 more)  
     
    My bibliography  
     
    Export citation  
  32. Luis Cheng-Guajardo (2014). The Normative Requirement of Means-End Rationality and Modest Bootstrapping. Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 17 (3):487-503.
    “Myth theorists” have recently called the normative requirement of means-end rationality into question. I show that we can accept certain lessons from the Myth Theorists and also salvage our intuition that there is a normative requirement of means-end rationality. I argue that any appeal to a requirement to make our attitudes coherent as such is superfluous and unnecessary in order to vindicate the requirement of means-end rationality and also avoid the problematic conclusion that persons ought to take the means to (...)
    Remove from this list | Direct download (4 more)  
     
    My bibliography  
     
    Export citation  
  33. D. S. Clark (2002). Pragmatism's Instrumental View of Moral Reasoning. Essays in Philosophy 3 (2):13.
    Remove from this list | Direct download  
     
    My bibliography  
     
    Export citation  
  34. Allen Coates (2004). Value, Commensurability, and Practical Reason. Dissertation, Vanderbilt University
    Two goods are incommensurable just in case neither is better than the other, nor are they equal. Incommensurable goods pose two problems: determining which goods are incommensurable, and deciding how to make choices over those that are. In this dissertation, I develop a theory of value and show how it solves these two problems. An item is good, I argue, insofar as there are reasons to choose it. Accordingly, the comparative value of two goods depends upon the reasons for choosing (...)
    Remove from this list |
     
    My bibliography  
     
    Export citation  
  35. Garrett Cullity (2008). Decisions, Reasons, and Rationality. Ethics 119 (1):57-95.
  36. Garrett Cullity & Berys Nigel Gaut (eds.) (1997). Ethics and Practical Reason. Oxford University Press.
    These thirteen new, specially written essays by a distinguished international line-up of contributors, including some leading contemporary moral philosophers, give a rich and varied view of current work on ethics and practical reason. The three main perspectives on the topic, Kantian, Humean, and Aristotelian, are all well represented. Issues covered include: the connection between reason and motivation; the source of moral reasons and their relation to reasons of self-interest; the relation of practical reason to value, to freedom, to responsibility, and (...)
    Remove from this list | Direct download (2 more)  
     
    My bibliography  
     
    Export citation  
  37. D. De Cremer (2002). Exploring the Instrumental Versus Non-Instrumental Aspects of Procedural Fairness: The Usefulness of a Person X Situation Approach. In Serge P. Shohov (ed.), Advances in Psychology Research. Nova Science Publishers. 157-172.
    Remove from this list | Direct download  
     
    My bibliography  
     
    Export citation  
  38. Yolanda Ruano de la Fuente (1989). Habermas: Sobre una reflexión metodológica de la teoría crítica. Logos 23:227-240.
    The purpose of this article is to explore the concept of Philosophy within the works written by Wittgenstein if we take into account the ambivalent sense of the term phármakon. Thus, it will be outlined a contest of paradoxes between, on the one hand, healthiness, sanity, and the adaptable confidence produced by western rationality materialized into objective science, and, on the other hand, sickness, insanity, the world of perplexities, and the realm of desire and death, essential to philosophical thought. Bearing (...)
    Remove from this list |
    Translate to English
    | Direct download (7 more)  
     
    My bibliography  
     
    Export citation  
  39. Andreas Dorschel (1989). Ist strategisches Handeln ergänzungsbedürftig? Karl-Otto Apels These und ihre Begründung. Archives Européenes de Sociologie 30:123-149.
    Remove from this list |
    Translate to English
    | Direct download  
     
    My bibliography  
     
    Export citation  
  40. Julian Fink (2013). What is (Correct) Practical Reasoning? Acta Analytica 28 (4):471-482.
    This paper argues that practical reasoning is a mental process which leads a person from a set of existent mental states to an intention. In Section 1, I defend this view against two other proposals according to which practical reasoning either concludes in an action itself or in a normative belief. Section 2 discusses the correctness of practical reasoning and explains how the correctness of instrumental reasoning can be explained by the logical relations that hold between the contents of the (...)
    Remove from this list | Direct download (4 more)  
     
    My bibliography  
     
    Export citation  
  41. Stephen Finlay (2010). What Ought Probably Means, and Why You Can't Detach It. Synthese 177 (1):67 - 89.
    Some intuitive normative principles raise vexing 'detaching problems' by their failure to license modus ponens. I examine three such principles (a self-reliance principle and two different instrumental principles) and recent stategies employed to resolve their detaching problems. I show that solving these problems necessitates postulating an indefinitely large number of senses for 'ought'. The semantics for 'ought' that is standard in linguistics offers a unifying strategy for solving these problems, but I argue that an alternative approach combining an end-relational theory (...)
    Remove from this list | Direct download (8 more)  
     
    My bibliography  
     
    Export citation  
  42. Stephen Finlay (2009). Against All Reason? Scepticism About the Instrumental Norm. In Charles R. Pigden (ed.), Hume on Motivation and Virtue. Palgrave Macmillan.
    Some of the opponents of desire-based views of normativity seek to undermine them by arguing that even the existence of instrumental normativity (reasons to pursue the means to your ends) entails the existence of a desire-independent rational norm, the instrumental norm. Once we grant the existence of one such norm, there seems to be no principled reason for not allowing others. I clarify this alleged norm, identifying two criteria that any satisfactory candidate must meet: reasonable expectation and possible violation. Some (...)
    Remove from this list | Direct download (2 more)  
     
    My bibliography  
     
    Export citation  
  43. Danny Frederick (2013). Popper, Rationality and the Possibility of Social Science. Theoria 28 (1):61-75.
    Social science employs teleological explanations which depend upon the rationality principle, according to which people exhibit instrumental rationality. Popper points out that people also exhibit critical rationality, the tendency to stand back from, and to question or criticise, their views. I explain how our critical rationality impugns the explanatory value of the rationality principle and thereby threatens the very possibility of social science. I discuss the relationship between instrumental and critical rationality and show how we can reconcile our critical rationality (...)
    Remove from this list | Direct download (10 more)  
     
    My bibliography  
     
    Export citation  
  44. Barbara H. Fried (2005). Moral Heuristics and the Means/End Distinction. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 28 (4):549-550.
    A mental heuristic is a shortcut (means) to a desired end. In the moral (as opposed to factual) realm, the means/end distinction is not self-evident: How do we decide whether a given moral intuition is a mere heuristic to achieve some freestanding moral principle, or instead a freestanding moral principle in its own right? I discuss Sunstein's solution to that threshold difficulty in translating “heuristics” to the moral realm.
    Remove from this list | Direct download (5 more)  
     
    My bibliography  
     
    Export citation  
  45. Steve Fuller (1994). Toward a Philosophy of Science Accounting: A Critical Rendering of Instrumental Rationality. Science in Context 7 (3).
    Remove from this list | Direct download (2 more)  
     
    My bibliography  
     
    Export citation  
  46. Alessandro Giordani & Paolo Gomarasca (2012). Trust as the End of Practical Reason. Justification Procedures. In Botturi Francesco (ed.), Understanding Human Experience. Peter Lang.
    This paper is about the epistemology of practical reason and, in particular, the function of trust as an end to be pursued rationally in praxis. Our purpose is threefold: first, to present an outline of the structure of practical reason; secondly, to compare practical reason and scientific reason in order to determine the main differences between these two basic manifestations of human reason; finally, to argue in favour of a non-utilitarian model of practical reason in the light of some results (...)
    Remove from this list | Direct download  
     
    My bibliography  
     
    Export citation  
  47. Godfrey Guillaumin (2008). El Naturalismo Normativo Y Sus Problemas (Normativos). Signos Filosóficos 10 (20):95-119.
    El naturalismo normativo de Larry Laudan es una de las tesis más importantes en filosofía de la ciencia, entre otras razones, porque permite evaluar las diferentes teorías filosóficas acerca de la naturaleza de la metodología científica. Su rasgo central es que incorpora tanto un aspecto descriptivo..
    Remove from this list | Direct download (2 more)  
     
    My bibliography  
     
    Export citation  
  48. Jean Hampton (1998). The Authority of Reason. Cambridge University Press.
    This challenging and provocative book argues against much contemporary orthodoxy in philosophy and the social sciences by showing why objectivity in the domain of ethics is really no different from the objectivity of scientific knowledge. Many philosophers and social scientists have challenged the idea that we act for objectively authoritative reasons. Jean Hampton takes up the challenge by undermining two central assumptions of this contemporary orthodoxy: that one can understand instrumental reasons without appeal to objective authority, and that the adoption (...)
    Remove from this list | Direct download (2 more)  
     
    My bibliography  
     
    Export citation  
  49. Jean Hampton (1995). Does Hume Have an Instrumental Conception of Practical Reason? Hume Studies 21 (1):57-74.
    Many philosophers and social scientists regard the instrumental theory of practical reason as highly plausible, and standardly credit David Hume as the first philosopher to formulate this conception of reason clearly. Yet Hume does not advocate the instrumental conception of practical reason as that conception is normally understood by contemporary theorists who endorse it. Instead, Hume's view is that there is no such thing as "practical reason", that is, no such thing as a form of reason that has either motivational (...)
    Remove from this list | Direct download (8 more)  
     
    My bibliography  
     
    Export citation  
  50. Ljudevit Hanzek (2012). Epistemic and Instrumental Rationality. Filozofska Istrazivanja 32 (3-4):411-425.
    Remove from this list | Direct download  
     
    My bibliography  
     
    Export citation  
1 — 50 / 116