Satisficing and optimality

Ethics 109 (1):67-93 (1998)
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, actions, or lives. But whatever one’s reasons for taking up instrumentalism, it remains to specify the relationship means are to have with ends. A natural demand is that instrumentally rational actions implement the best means to one’s given ends. Optimizing conceptions of rationality endorse this demand. A competing conception of rationality—the satisficing conception—weakens this requirement and permits some rational actions to implement (merely) satisfactory means to the agent’s given ends. The present article argues that instrumentalist theories of rationality as commonly understood cannot consistently accommodate this satisficing conception of rationality.
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1086/233874
 Save to my reading list
Follow the author(s)
My bibliography
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Revision history Request removal from index
Download options
PhilPapers Archive

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy on self-archival     Papers currently archived: 15,865
External links
Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library
References found in this work BETA

No references found.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA
John R. Welch (2013). New Tools for Theory Choice and Theory Diagosis. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science 44 (3):318-329.

View all 8 citations / Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Monthly downloads

Added to index


Total downloads

33 ( #96,304 of 1,724,892 )

Recent downloads (6 months)

9 ( #72,195 of 1,724,892 )

How can I increase my downloads?

My notes
Sign in to use this feature

Start a new thread
There  are no threads in this forum
Nothing in this forum yet.