Higher-order preferences and the master rationality motive

Thinking and Reasoning 14 (1):111 – 127 (2008)
Abstract
The cognitive critique of the goals and desires that are input into the implicit calculations that result in instrumental rationality is one aspect of what has been termed broad rationality (Elster, 1983). This cognitive critique involves, among other things, the search for rational integration (Nozick, 1993)—that is, consistency between first-order and second-order preferences. Forming a second-order preference involves metarepresentational abilities made possible by mental decoupling operations. However, these decoupling abilities are separable from the motive that initiates the cognitive critique itself. I argue that Velleman (1992) has identified that motive (“the desire to act in accordance with reasons”), and that it might be operationalisable as a thinking disposition at a very superordinate cognitive level. This thinking disposition, the Master Rationality Motive, is likely to be of particular importance in explaining individual differences in the tendency to seek rational integration. Preliminary research on related constructs suggests that this construct is measurable
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