Although much human action serves as proof that irrational behavior is remarkably common, certain forms of irrationality--most notably, incontinent action and self-deception--pose such difficult theoretical problems that philosophers have rejected them as logically or psychologically impossible. Here, Mele shows that, and how, incontinent action and self-deception are indeed possible. Drawing upon recent experimental work in the psychology of action and inference, he advances naturalized explanations of akratic action and self-deception while resolving the paradoxes around which the philosophical literature revolves. (...) In addition, he defends an account of self-control, argues that "strict" akratic action is an insurmountable obstacle for traditional belief-desire models of action-explanation, and explains how a considerably modified model accommodates action of this sort. (shrink)
My primary aim in Irrationality: An Essay on Akrasia, Self-Deception, and Self-Control (1987) is to show that and how akratic action and self-deception are possible. The control that normal agents have over their actions and beliefs figures in the analysis and explanation of both phenomena. For that reason, an examination of self-control plays a central role in the book. In addition, I devote a chapter each to akratic belief and the explanation of intentional action. A precis of the book (...) will provide a useful context for the three essays that follow. (shrink)
In this paper I outline Donald Davidson’s account of two forms of irrationality, akrasia and self-deception, and relate this account to ethical action and belief. His view of irrationality is generally a Freudian one, to the effect that agents must compartmentalize both offending particular mental contents, and governing second order principles. Davidson also hints that his account of akrasia and self-deception might show certain normative and meta-ethical theories to be irrational, insofar as they too engender irrationality. I (...) explore these hints, and hopefully show both that Davidson is correct about irrationality and correct that certain ethical theories (e.g. Kantian deontology and certain forms of moral realism) engender irrationality as well. I believe this to be no great loss to ethics generally, but will hopefully aid our understanding of how ethical action and belief actually happen. (shrink)
The literature on motivated irrationality has two primary foci: action and belief. This article explores two of the central topics falling under this rubric: akratic action (action exhibiting so-called weakness of will or deficient self-control) and motivationally biased belief (including self-deception). Among other matters, this article offers a resolution of Donald Davidson's worry about the explanation of irrationality. When agents act akratically, they act for reasons, and in central cases, they make rational judgments about what it is best (...) to do. The rationality required for that is in place. However, to the extent to which their actions are at odds with these judgments, they act irrationally. Motivationally biased believers test hypotheses and believe on the basis of evidence. Again there is a background of rationality. But owing to the influence of motivation, they violate general standards of epistemic rationality. (shrink)
Abstract Studies of irrationality in cognitive psychology have usually looked at areas where humans might be expected to be rational, yet appear not to be. In this paper the other extreme of human irrationality is examined: the delusion as it occurs in psychiatric illness. A parallel is suggested between the delusion as an aberration of cognition and some illusions which result from aberrations within optics. It is argued that, because delusions are found predominantly within certain limited areas of (...) cognitive functioning, they may represent a form of mental aberration which may tell us something about the abstract properties of mind. Possible implications of this model for several areas of cognitive science are discussed. (shrink)
In this paper, I hope to show how a recent theory in the philosophy of mind concerning how we ‘read’ the minds of others – namely, Heal’s version of simulation theory – is consistent with the view that the kind of understanding we bring to bear on the irrational is different in kind from the way we understand one another in the course of everyday life. I shall attempt to show that Heal’s version of simulation theory (co-cognition) is to be (...) favoured over its rival ‘theory theories’ in the light of its accommodation of deeply irrational mental states. I claim that simulation theory preserves an asymmetry of psychological explanation which is not similarly preserved by a theory theory account, and I argue that this preservation of asymmetry is an advantage of Heal’s account. (shrink)
(2) The sort of irrationality that makes conceptual trouble is not the failure of someone else to believe or feel to do what we deem reasonable, but rather the failure, within a single person, of coherence or consistency in the pattern of beliefs, attitudes, emotions, intentions and actions.
A recalcitrant emotion is one which conflicts with evaluative judgement. (A standard example is where someone is afraid of flying despite believing that it poses little or no danger.) The phenomenon of emotional recalcitrance raises an important problem for theories of emotion, namely to explain the sense in which recalcitrant emotions involve rational conflict. In this paper I argue that existing ‘neojudgementalist’ accounts of emotions fail to provide plausible explanations of the irrationality of recalcitrant emotions, and develop and defend (...) my own neojudgementalist account. On my view, recalcitrant emotions are irrational insofar as they incline the subject to accept an evaluative construal that the subject has already rejected. (shrink)
The strategy of this paper is to throw light on rational cognition and epistemic justification by examining irrationality. Epistemic irrationality is possible because we are reflexive cognizers, able to reason about and redirect some aspects of our own cognition. One consequence of this is that one cannot give a theory of epistemic rationality or epistemic justification without simultaneously giving a theory of practical rationality. A further consequence is that practical irrationality can affect our epistemic cognition. I argue (...) that practical irrationality derives from a general difficulty we have in overriding built-in shortcut modules aimed at making cognition more efficient, and all epistemic irrationality can be traced to this same source. A consequence of this account is that a theory of rationality is a descriptive theory, describing contingent features of a cognitive architecture, and it forms the core of a general theory of “voluntary” cognition — those aspects of cognition that are under voluntary control. It also follows that most of the so-called “rules for rationality” that philosophers have proposed are really just rules describing default (non- reflexive) cognition. It can be perfectly rational for a reflexive cognizer to break these rules. The “normativity” of rationality is a reflection of a built-in feature of reflexive cognition — when we detect violations of rationality, we have a tendency to desire to correct them. This is just another part of the descriptive theory of rationality. Although theories of rationality are descriptive, the structure of reflexive cognition gives philosophers, as human cognizers, privileged access to certain aspects of rational cognition. Philosophical theories of rationality are really scientific theories, based on inference to the best explanation, that take contingent introspective data as the evidence to be explained. (shrink)
Common formulations of the principle of charity in translation seem to undermine attributions of irrationality in social scientific accounts that are otherwise unexceptionable. This I call the problem of irrationality. Here I resolve the problem of irrationality by developing two complementary views of the principle of charity. First, I develop the view (ill-developed in the literature at present) that the principle of charity is preparatory, being needed in the construction of provisional first-approximation translation manuals. These serve as (...) the basis for explanatory accounts and associated refinements in the translation manual. In developing such explanatory accounts, the principle of charity is no longer constraining. Thus, the principle of charity applies only in the early stages of constructing translation manuals, and there is no problem of irrationality in the later stages of constructing translation manuals. Second, I reduce the principle of charity, where it does apply, to a special case of what I call the principle of explicability: so translate as to attribute explicable beliefs and practices to the speakers of the source-language. I show that the appropriate formulation of the principle of charity counsels just what the principle of explicability requires in the early stages of social scientific investigation. (shrink)
Christine Korsgaard has argued that Humean views about action and practical rationality jointly imply the impossibility of irrational action. According to the Humean theory of action, agents do what maximizes expected desire-satisfaction. According to the Humean theory of rationality, it is rational for agents to do what maximizes expected desire-satisfaction. Thus Humeans are committed to the impossibility of practical irrationality – an unacceptable consequence. -/- I respond by developing Humean views to explain how we can act irrationally. Humeans about (...) action should consider the immediate motivational forces produced by an agent's desires. Humeans about rationality should consider the agent's dispositional desire strengths. When (for example) vivid sensory or imaginative experiences of desired things cause some of our desires to produce motivational force disproportional to their dispositional strength, we may act in ways that do not maximize expected desire-satisfaction, thus acting irrationally. I argue that this way of developing Humean views is true to the best reasons for holding them. (shrink)
In a paper in this journal, Neil Levy challenges Nicholas Agar’s argument for the irrationality of mind-uploading. Mind-uploading is a futuristic process that involves scanning brains and recording relevant information which is then transferred into a computer. Its advocates suppose that mind-uploading transfers both human minds and identities from biological brains into computers. According to Agar’s original argument, mind-uploading is prudentially irrational. Success relies on the soundness of the program of Strong AI—the view that it may someday be possible (...) to build a computer that is capable of thought. Strong AI may in fact be false, an eventuality with dire consequences for mind-uploading. Levy argues that Agar’s argument relies on mistakes about the probability of failed mind-uploading and underestimates what is to be gained from successfully mind-uploading. This paper clarifies Agar’s original claims about the likelihood of mind-uploading failure and offers further defense of a pessimistic evaluation of success. (shrink)
Although irrationality always presupposes rationality, I think there are good arguments to claim that sometimes rationality presupposes irrationality.This paper tries to show how irrational action can support rationality in two ways: it can develop and preserve rationality. I also argue that sometimes the development and the conservation of rationality can only be realized by irrational action.
Our concern in this paper is with the question of how irrational an intentional agent can be, and, in particular, with an argument Stephen Stich has given for the claim that there are only very minimal a priori requirements on the rationality of intentional agents. The argument appears in chapter 2 of The Fragmentation of Reason.1 Stich is concerned there with the prospects for the ‘reform-minded epistemologist’. If there are a priori limits on how irrational we can be, there are (...) limits to how much reform we could expect to achieve. With this in mind, Stich sets out to determine what a priori limits there are on irrationality by examining `a cluster of influential arguments aimed at showing that there are conceptual constraints on how badly a person can reason’ (p. 30). Stich aims to remove the threat of a priori limits on the project of reforming our cognitive practices by showing, first, that these influential arguments are bad arguments, and, second, that at best there are only minimal constraints on how irrational we can be.2 We aim to show three things. The first is that Stich’s own arguments against strong a priori limits on how badly a person can reason are unsuccessful, because Stich fails to take into account that the concept of rationality is an epistemic, not just a logical concept, and because he fails to take into account the connection between having a concept and being able to recognize conceptually simple inferences involving the concept. The second is that the position Stich argues for, on the basis of Richard Grandy’s principle of humanity, turns out not to be distinct from the one he rejects. The third is that, in any case, the position that Stich rejects in order to preserve some scope for the project of improving our reasoning is not only no danger to that project but must be presupposed by it. (shrink)
In the study of judgmental errors, surprisingly little thought is spent on what constitutes good and bad judgment. I call this simultaneous focus on errors and lack of analysis of what constitutes an error, the irrationality paradox. I illustrate the paradox by a dozen apparent fallacies; each can be logically deduced from the environmental structure and an unbiased mind.
This paper consists of two related parts: I. A detailed critique of Donald Davidson's thesis-in his "The Paradoxes of Irrationality"-that "...any satisfactory [explanatory] view [of irrationality] must embrace some of Freud's most important theses" (p. 290). I argue that this conclusion is doubly flawed: (i) Davidson's case for it is logically ill-founded, and (ii) its Freudian plaidoyer is also factually false. II. Relatedly, in the second part, I confute the recent arguments given by Marcia Cavell, Thomas Nagel, et (...) al. to establish that psychoanalytic causal explanations of irrationality are epistemically justified, because they are extensions of the desire-cum-belief pattern of accounting for intentional actions. As a corollary, it becomes clear that these authors have failed to undermine my epistemological strictures on the foundations of psychoanalysis. (shrink)
In this paper, I criticize the claim made by Donald Davidson, among others, that Freud’s psychoanalytic theory provides “a conceptual framework within which to describe and understand irrationality.” Further, I defend my epistemological strictures on the explanatory and therapeutic foundations of the psychoanalytic enterprise against the efforts of Davidson, Marcia Cavell, Thomas Nagel, et al., to undermine them.
This volume is a collection of papers, all but one of which were presented at a conference on the same topic at the University of Montreal in 2001. The editors have also added a brief introduction, half of which is devoted to a very quick overview of some of the relevant background literature on weakness of will and practical irrationality, while the other half summarizes the main claims of each of the papers in the volume.
We offer a case-study in irrationality, showing that even in a high stakes context, intelligent and well trained professionals may adopt dominated practices. In multiple-choice tests one cannot distinguish lucky guesses from answers based on knowledge. Test-makers have dealt with this problem by lowering the incentive to guess, through penalizing errors (called formula scoring), and by eliminating various cues for outperforming random guessing (e.g., a preponderance of correct answers in middle positions), through key balancing. These policies, though widespread and (...) intuitively appealing, are in fact ââirrationalââ, and are dominated by alternative solutions. Number-rightscoring is superior to formula scoring, and key randomization is superior to key balancing. We suggest that these policies have persisted since all stake-holders â test-makers, test-takers and test-coaches â share the same faulty intuitions. (shrink)
This book is about self-deception and lack of self-control or wishful thinking and acting against one's own better judgement. Steering a course between the skepticism of philosophers, who find the conscious defiance of reason too paradoxical, and the tolerant empiricism of psychologists, it compares the two kinds of irrationality, and relates the conclusions drawn to the views of Freud, cognitive psychologists, and such philosophers as Aristotle, Anscombe, Hare and Davidson.
In his recent book, The Empirical Stance (2002), Bas van Fraassen elaborates on earlier suggestions of a religious view that has striking parallels withhis constructive empiricism. A particularly salient feature consists in the way in which he keeps a critical distance from theoretical formulations both in scienceand religion, thus preferring a mystical approach to religious experience. As an alternative, I suggest a view based on mediation by the word, both in the structureof reality and the encounter between persons. Without falling (...) prey to rationalist illusions, such an approach allows for true human knowledge as embedded intranscendent Wisdom. It implies a more radical break with the Enlightenment ideal of neutral and universal knowledge than van Fraassen’s program, as he stillmaintains a kind of immanent grounding of knowledge in the form of direct, unmediated experience, in spite of his rejection of classical foundationalism. Wecan thus overcome the antithetical ring that characterizes his notion of rationality understood as bridled irrationality and escape relativism without forgetting thelessons that we have learned from the collapse of positivism—lessons to which van Fraassen rightly draws our attention. (shrink)
This volume is a collection of papers, all but one of which were presented at a conference on the same topic at the University of Montreal in 2001. The editors have also added a brief introduction, half of which is devoted to a very quick overview of some of the relevant background literature on weakness of will and practical irrationality, while the other half summarizes the main claims of each of the papers in the volume. The contributors, in order (...) of appearance, are Michael Smith, Richard Holton, Philip Pettit, Christine Tappolet, Sarah Stroud, Sergio Tenenbaum, Gary Watson, Ralph Wedgwood, Duncan MacIntosh, Joseph Heath, and Ronald de Sousa. As is common in reviews of collections such as this one, I will first briefly summarize each contribution, and then comment in more detail on one of the papers. (shrink)
The mere possibility of irrationality has been challenged by a long-standing tradition which strongly supports the normative primacy of ideals of rationality. In this paper, I consider the possibility that a coherent account of irrationality can nonetheless be provided and furthermore that some forms of irrationality may be seen as justifiable on the basis of their functional roles.
(I) It is commonly held that a person cannot wittingly hold false or inconsistent beliefs. Edgley has argued that this follows from the normative implications involved in the concept of belief and the concept of a proposition, as expressed in the analytic principle 'if p, then it is right to think that p\ (II) But the principle, when taken in its analytic sense, does not have the required implications; and taken in the sense in which it would have those implications (...) it is neither analytic nor true. (III) A person can not only hold a false belief wittingly, he can assert that he does. Examples are given to exhibit the legitimacy of the claim that such irrationality does not necessarily dissolve when recognized for what it is. (IV) The phenomenon of self-confessed irrationality involves the fusion of two general features of mental life. It comprises a mental state over whose existence one has no control, but which one can in some way detach oneself from and be critical of. (shrink)
Abstract The phenomenology of Multiple Personality (MP) syndrome is used to derive an Aristotelian explanation of the failure to achieve rational integration of mental content. An MP subject is best understood as having failed to master the techniques of integrating conative and cognitive aspects of her mental life. This suggests that in irrationality the subject may lack similar skills basic to the proper articulation and use of mental content in belief formation and control of action. The view that emerges (...) centres mind on the activity of a subject rather than a structured causal nexus. (shrink)
Abstract: This study explores a phenomenon that has been shown to adversely affect managers’ decisions—competitive irrationality. Managers are irrationally competitive in their decisions when they focus on damaging the profits of competitors, rather than improving their own profit performance. Studies by Armstrong and Collopy (1996) and Griffith and Rust (1997) suggest that the phenomenon is common but not universal. We examine the question of why some individuals exhibit competitive irrationality when making decisions, while others do not by focusing (...) on four aspects of moral philosophy—deontological orientation, cognitive moral development, idealism, and relativism. Results suggest that individuals high in deontological orientation, high in cognitive moral development, high in idealism, and low in relativism will be less competitively irrational than those who are not. (shrink)
Many normative claims are substantive claims about reasons— claims, for example, about the reasons that a person in certain circumstances has to do or to believe something. But not all normative claims are substantive claims about reasons. In particular, some claims about what it would be irrational for someone to do are normative claims but not claims about the reasons that person has. Here are some examples. (I will state these in terms of “reasons for belief” and “reasons for intending,” (...) although I will later raise doubts about whether this is the best way of describing these cases.) If a person believes that p, then it would be irrational for him to refuse to rely on p as a premise in further reasoning, and to reject arguments because they rely on it. To say this is not to say that the person has good reason to accept these arguments. Perhaps what he has most reason to do is to give up his belief that p. The claim is only that as long as he believes that p, it is irrational of him to refuse to accept such arguments. Similar claims hold in regard to practical reasoning: if a person intends to do A at t, and believes that in order to do this she must first do B, then it is irrational for her not to count this as a reason for doing B. This is not to say that she has any reason to do B. Perhaps what she has most reason to do is to abandon her intention to do A, or to change her mind about.. (shrink)
Though Kant calls the prohibition against suicide the first duty of human beings to themselves, his arguments for this duty lack his characteristic rigor and systematicity. The lack of a single authoritative Kantian approach to suicide casts doubt on what is generally regarded as an extreme and implausible position, to wit, that not only is suicide wrong in every circumstance, but is among the gravest moral wrongs. Here I try to remedy this lack of systematicity in order to show that (...) Kant's position on suicide is more appealing and credible than it seems at first glance. Kant in fact offers three distinct lines of argument against suicide. The first, the chief argument in his Lectures on Ethics, holds that suicide violates the divine will, for in willing our own deaths we usurp God's right to determine the duration of our existence; as God's property, we are not entitled to end our own lives willfully. The second, rooted in the Groundwork, holds that suicide is incompatible with a system of willed ends conceived analogously with a system of nature, so a maxim to commit suicide cannot be coherently willed as a universal practical principle. The third argument, drawn from the Metaphysics of Morals, holds that because suicide obliterates the rational will from the world, and as the rational will is the source of moral worth, suicide cannot be consistently willed by beings subject to moral requirements. To authorize oneself to take one's own life, Kant claims, is to attempt 'to withdraw from all obligation.' We cannot, under the color of morality, seek to cancel the will that authorizes all obligation in the first place. This third argument is demonstrably superior to the other two in being both more philosophically plausible in its own right and more Kantian in flavor. (shrink)
Sarah Stroud and Christine Tappolet present eleven original essays on weakness of will, a topic straddling the divide between moral philosophy and philosophy of mind, and the subject of much current attention. An international team of established scholars and younger talent provide perspectives on all the key issues in this fascinating debate; the book will be essential reading for anyone working in the area. Issues covered include classical questions, such as the distinction between weakness and compulsion, the connection between evaluative (...) judgment and motivation, the role of emotions in akrasia, rational agency, and the existence of the will. They also include new topics, such as group akrasia, strength of will, the nature of correct choice, the structure of decision theory, the temporality of prudential reasons, and emotional rationality. Because these questions cut across philosophy of mind and ethics, the collection will be essential reading for scholars, postgraduates, and upper-level undergraduates in both these fields. (shrink)
Geach's problem, the problem of accounting for the fact that judgements expressed using moral terms function logically like other judgements, stands in the way of most noncognitive analyses of moral judgements. The non-cognitivist must offer a plausible interpretation of such terms when they appear in conditionals that also explains their logical interaction with straightforward moral assertions. Blackburn and Gibbard have offered a series of accounts each of which interprets such conditionals as expressing higher order commitments. Each then invokes norms for (...) the coherent acceptance of attitudes to explain why we hold certain combinations inconsistent. Against these accounts the paper presses two related objections: (1) The norms needed to do the explanatory work cannot be strong enough to do that work without also ruling clearly consistent attitudes inconsistent. And (2), the norms of rational attitude acceptance do not neatly track the distinction between consistent and inconsistent attitudes. (shrink)
What is it to deceive someone? And how is it possible to deceive oneself? Does self-deception require that people be taken in by a deceitful strategy that they know is deceitful? The literature is divided between those who argue that self-deception is intentional and those who argue that it is non-intentional. In this study, Annette Barnes offers a challenge to both the standard characterisation of other-deception and current characterizations of self-deception, examining the available explanations and exploring such questions as the (...) self-deceiver's false consciousness, bias, and the irrationality and objectionability of self-deception. She arrives at a non-intentional account of self-deception that is deeper and more complete than alternative non-intentional accounts and avoids the reduction of self-deceptive belief to wishful belief. (shrink)
The aim of this chapter is to understand more precisely what kind of irrationality involved in procrastination. The chapter argues that in order to understand the irrationality of procrastination one needs to understand the possibility and the nature of what I call “top-down independent” policies and long-term actions. A policy or long-term action) is top-down independent if it is possible to act irrationally relative to the adoption of the policy without ever engaging in a momentary action that is (...) per se irrational. involved in procrastination one needs to It argues that procrastination is one of the corresponding vices of an overlooked virtue; namely, “practical judgment.” On this account, procrastination turns out to be a failure of instrumental rationality that can be so characterized without assuming the correctness of any further norms of practical rationality. Thus this account of procrastination also constitutes an important objection to Christine Korsgaard’s claim that a purely instrumental conception of rationality is incoherent. (shrink)
For about 2500 years, from Plato’s time until the closing decades of the 20th century, the dominant view was that the emotions are quite distinct from the processes of rational thinking and decision making, and are often a major impediment to those processes. But in recent years this orthodoxy has been challenged in a number of ways. Damasio (1994) has made a forceful case that the traditional view, which he has dubbed _Descartes’ Error_, is quite wrong, because emotions play a (...) fundamental role in rational decision making. When the systems underlying the emotions don’t function properly, Damasio maintains, rational decision-making breaks down. Other theorists, most notably Robert Frank (1988), have argued that if we view the emotions through the longer lens of evolutionary theory, we can see that much of what looked to be irrational in the emotions is actually part of an effective strategy for achieving agents’ goals and maximizing their reproductive success. In the wake of this and other recent work, the pendulum of received opinion has swung in the other direction. The emotions are now increasingly regarded as inherently rational, as Frank maintains, and as important components of other rational processes. (shrink)
Over the last twenty years, Bas van Fraassen has developed a “new epistemology”: an attempt to sail between Bayesianism and traditional epistemology. He calls his own alternative “voluntarism”. A constant pillar of his thought is the thought that rationality involves permission rather than obligation. The present paper aims to offer an appraisal of van Fraassen’s conception of rationality. In section 2, I review the Bayesian structural conception of rationality and argue that it has been found wanting. In sections 3 and (...) 4, I analyse van Fraassen’s voluntarism. I raise some objections about van Fraassen’s reliance on prior opinion and argue that the content of a belief matters to its rationality. In section 5, I criticise van Fraassen’s view that inference to the best explanation is incoherent. Finally, in section 6, I take on van Fraassen’s conception of rationality and show that it is too thin to fully capture rational judgement. (shrink)
How does a subject who is competent to detect the irrationality of a belief that p, form her belief against weighty or even conclusive evidence to the contrary? The phenomenon of self-deception threatens a widely shared view of beliefs according to which they do not regularly correspond to emotions and evaluative attitudes. Accordingly, the most popular answer to this question is that the belief formed in self-deception is caused by an intention to form that belief. On this view, the (...) state of self-deception is taken to be a calculated outcome involving a person's intentional manipulation of her own thoughts. I argue that this answer is false and forms an impediment towards making sense of self-deception. I show that, contrary to philosophical prejudice, emotions and desires exert vast and systematic effects on the formation of beliefs. In this, and other, sections of the article, the results of experimental work are brought forward. Self-deception is portrayed here as resembling numerous instances of belief formation which are regularly affected by motivational factors. I argue that self-deceptive beliefs are direct expressions of the subject's wishes, fears and hopes. Qua beliefs which mostly correspond to such factors (rather than to evidence), self-deceptive states are a kind of fantasy. (shrink)
There are at least three basic phenomena that philosophers traditionally classify as paradigm cases of irrationality. In the first two cases, wishful thinking and self-deception, a person wants something to be true and therefore ignores certain relevant facts about the situation, making it appear to herself that it is, in fact, true. The third case, weakness of will, involves a person undertaking a certain action, despite taking herself to have an all-things-considered better reason not to do so. While I (...) think that Stephen Colbert's notion of "truthiness" might be able to fit the mold of each of these three kinds of irrationality, it applies most directly to cases of wishful thinking and self-deception — and it’s these two types of irrationality that I discuss extensively in this paper. As we will see, there are some troubling philosophical problems that arise regarding phenomena like self-deception. But we can use the concept of truthiness to show how these “paradoxes of irrationality” may be resolved without denying the fundamental irrationality of truthiness itself. (shrink)
This paper inquires into the conceptual nature of self-deception. I shall afford a theory which links SD to wishful thinking. First I present two rival models for the analysis of SD, and suggest reasons why the interpersonal model is flawed. It is necessary for supporters of this model to work out a strategy that avoids the ascription of inconsistency to the self-deceiver in order to fulfill the requirements of the charity principle. Some objections to the compartmentalization strategy are put forward, (...) and a motivational theory is advanced. This theory diverges from Mele (1997)'s account of SD in that it (i) establishes as a necessary condition for SD the existence of a causal link between a desire and a belief unacknowledged by the self-deceived subject, who is unaware also of the counterevidential nature of his belief (the 'focused inferential blindness' thesis), (ii) allows only 'weak SD' cases and offers methodological reasons against the seemingly intentional and dissociative nature of SD and (iii) stresses the deception-SD asymmetry. /// El presente artículo intenta investigar la naturaleza conceptual del autoengaño. Presentaré dos modelos rivales de análisis y ofreceré razones contra la teoría interpersonal frente a la motivacional, alegando las dificultades que comporta seguir alguna de sus estrategias de compartimentación para evitar la atribución de inconsistencia simple al sujeto autoengañado. Defenderé una teoría que vincula el autoengaño con la creencia desiderativa. Se trata de una teoría motivacional que difiere de la de Mele (1997) en que (i) establece como condición necesaria para el autoengaño que se dé una relación causal entre el deseo y la creencia pertinentes, relación cuya existencia desconoce el sujeto, que ignora también el grado en que su creencia es incompatible con los datos empíricamente disponibles (tesis de la ceguera inferencial focalizada), (ii) acepta sólo casos de autoengaño débil y ofrece razones metodológicas contra la supuesta naturaleza intencional y disociativa del autoengaño y (iii) subraya la asimetría autoengaño/engaño. (shrink)
For about 2500 years, from Plato’s time until the closing decades of the 20th century, the dominant view was that the emotions are quite distinct from the processes of rational thinking and decision making, and are often a major impediment to those processes. But in recent years this orthodoxy has been challenged in a number of ways. Damasio (1994) has made a forceful case that the traditional view, which he has dubbed Descartes’ Error, is quite wrong, because emotions play a (...) fundamental role in rational decision making. When the systems underlying the emotions don’t function properly, Damasio maintains, rational decision-making breaks down. Other theorists, most notably Robert Frank (1988), have argued that if we view the emotions through the longer lens of evolutionary theory, we can see that much of what looked to be irrational in the emotions is actually part of an effective strategy for achieving agents’ goals and maximizing their reproductive success. In the wake of this and other recent work, the pendulum of received opinion has swung in the other direction. The emotions are now increasingly regarded as inherently rational, as Frank maintains, and as important components of other rational processes. (shrink)
Standard models of practical rationality face a puzzle that has gone unnoticed: given a modest assumption about the nature of deliberation, we are apparently frequently briefly irrational. I explain the problem, consider what is wrong with several possible solutions, and propose an account that does not generate the objectionable result.
There are some seemingly clear cases of the use of the concepts of rationality and irrationality in talk about the emotions. Even in such contexts, it is argued here, while not entirely wrong-headed, the use is much less clearly appropriate, upon reflection, than many of us seem to believe. The paper starts with a conception of the emotions which emphasizes the way we construe the world (or some aspect of the world) while we experience them and because of what (...) it is to experience them. According to this approach, an emotion’s appropriateness is simply a function of the features of the relevant part of the world actually being in the way specified by a proper analysis of that emotion. It is then argued that this analysis is not favorable to using the concept of rationality in the sorts of cases that interest us. (shrink)
Were Maxwell and Boltzmann irrational to develop statistical mechanics whereas it was empirically refuted by the specific heats problem? My analysis of this historical episode departs from the current proposals about belief change. I first give a detailed description of Maxwell's and Boltzmann's epistemic states in the years they were working on statistical mechanics and then make some methodological proposals in epistemology that would account for the complexity of this case.
Approximately 48 hours ago, knowing that I would, Lord willing, be stand- ing here on this podium two days hence, I tapped http://www.fsf.org into Safari in order to begin learning at least something about the Free Software Movement (FSM). My online education has been augmented by many propo- nents of FSM in attendance at this conference, including Richard Stallman. What I have learned is that this movement is populated by a lot of seem- ingly well-intentioned people who are, at least (...) for the time being, utterly irrational, or worse. In wanting to point out why logic has heretofore been lost on the folks in question, I find within my command an embarrassment of riches. The five minutes at my disposal here is slim indeed, but nonetheless sufficient to reveal the untenability of FSM to those not gripped by an ide- ology: I shall mention here just a needle of fatal truth from the vast supply before me. (shrink)
In this paper I attempt to bring together (at least) two very different debates: one on justice, mercy and particularity, the other on the play of exclusionary reasons. My aim is to show how the discussion of the uneasy co-existence of justice and mercy pivots on the question of particularity. And, secondly, that the debate on exclusionary reasons can show us why law may fail to do justice in this context.
One of the most persistent legacies of Karl Marx and the Young Hegelians has been the centrality of the concept of “ideology” in contemporary social criticism. The concept was introduced in order to account for a very specific phenomenon, viz. the fact that individuals often participate in maintaining and reproducing institutions under which they are oppressed or exploited. In the extreme, these individuals may even actively resist the efforts of anyone who tries to change these institutions on their behalf. Clearly, (...) some explanation needs to be given of how individuals could systematically fail to see where their interests lie, or how they might fail to pursue these interests once these have been made clear to them. This need is often felt with some urgency, since failure to provide such an explanation usually counts as prima facie evidence against the claim that these individuals are genuinely oppressed or exploited in the first place. (shrink)
This paper argues that Weber ought to be read as a comparative ethicist who brings his German intellectual inheritance, especially Schopenauer and Nietzsche, to a dialogue with ethical traditions in India and China. It shows that Weber not only had a supple understanding of the tensions within Hindu ethics, his own account of value often closely corresponds to Hindu axiology and was enriched by an encounter with it.
abstract Ryan Tonkens proposes that my Kantian approach to suicide intervention with respect to the mentally ill (2002) wrongly assumes that the suicidally mentally ill are rational and are therefore rational agents to whom Kantian moral constraints ought to apply. Here I indicate how the empirical evidence concerning the suicidally mentally ill does not support Tonkens' criticism that the suicidally mentally ill are irrational. In particular, that evidence does not support the conclusion that such individuals are systemically practically irrational so (...) as to undermine the attribution of at least minimal rational autonomy to them. A Kantian moral framework, albeit one developed in a non-ideal direction, remains applicable to such individuals. (shrink)
This book explores classic philosophical questions regarding the phenomenon of weakness of will or ‘akrasia’: doing A, even though all things considered, you judge it best to do B. Does this phenomenon really exist and if so, how should it be explained? Nacht van Descartes -/- The author provides a historical overview of some traditional answers to these questions and addresses the main question: how does the phenomenon of 'going against your own judgment' relate to the idea that we are (...) rational beings? She elaborates on the notion of rational agency and shows how different types of behaviour express or fail to express our rational agency. This leads to the speculation of what is needed for akratic action to be free action. -/- A novel position is developed, stating that certain widespread philosophical accounts of free action must conclude that 'going against your own judgment' is necessarily unfree. This also requires a reflection on possible implications for moral responsibility. Would it mean that people cannot be held accountable for irrational behaviour? -/- Kalis offers insight on whether everyday irrational behaviour differs from irrational behaviour occurring in the context of psychiatric dysfunction, and develops a view on how we should understand ourselves when we do something other than what we judge best. -/- Written for philosophers, psychologists and psychiatrists interested in issues of irrationality and philosophy of action, this is an indispensable book for both professionals and students interested in interdisciplinary endeavours in the science of mind and behaviour. (shrink)
In this paper I attempt to bring together (at least) two very different debates: one on justice, mercy and particularity, the other on the play of exclusionary reasons. My aim is to show how the discussion of the uneasy co-existence of justice and mercy pivots on the question of particularity. And, secondly, that the debate on exclusionary reasons can show us why law may fail to do justice in this context.
Economists typically assume that preferences are fixed-that people know what they like and how much they like it relative to all other things, and that this rank-ordering is stable over time. But this assumption has never been accepted by any other discipline. Economists are increasingly having difficulty arguing that the assumption is true enough to generate useful predictions and explanations. Indeed, law and economics scholars increasingly acknowledge that preferences are constructed, and that the law itself can help construct preferences. Still, (...) fixed preferences are often treated as a normative ideal: Even if people don't have fixed preferences, they should. Behavioral law and economics scholars offer approaches to deal with this normative shortcoming. My article argues that preference construction, properly understood, is not normatively undesirable. Having fixed preferences means having a complete and stable rank ordering of what we want that dictates our choices. But we often do not have such an ordering, and rationally so. My article argues instead for an alternative process-based, account of preference construction. Rather than having a complete rank ordering, we have ways of making choices. We construct narratives, using evaluative criteria against a backdrop of wants, desires and inclinations, some of which we rank order and some of which we do not. The evaluative criteria embed a consideration of transaction costs: critically, where a decision is not very consequential, a formulaic decision rule that permits a ready choice among roughly comparable alternatives may serve our purposes better than a more considered alternative-by-alternative assessment. Our wants, desires and inclinations are for both traditional objects of choice and higher order values and desires; they are both previously constructed and constructed and elicited in the choice-making process. My article makes the case for such an account's potential explanatory power, as well as its tractability. (shrink)
Stubborn belief, like self-deception, is a species of motivated irrationality. The nature of stubborn belief, however, has not been investigated by philosophers, and it is something that poses a challenge to some prominent accounts of self-deception. In this paper, I argue that the case of stubborn belief constitutes a counterexample to Alfred Mele’s proposed set of sufficient conditions for self-deception, and I attempt to distinguish between the two. The recognition of this phenomenon should force an amendment in this account, (...) and should also make a Mele-style deflationist think more carefully about the kinds of motivational factors operating in self-deception. (shrink)
Tieu, Matthew When we speak of rationality we generally speak of logic and reason in an abstract sense. However, one can also think of rationality in a practical sense. Practical rationality is our capacity to use reason and logic to form beliefs, arrive at decisions, and act in accordance with those beliefs and decisions. If we believe that we ought to do X then, all things being equal, we will do X. If we believe that we ought to refrain from (...) smoking, or drinking or having that extra serving of dessert, then all things being equal, the rational outcome from our subjective point of view is that we are moved to act in accordance with those beliefs. This is what defines humankind as rational agents. (shrink)
The target article's finding of stable and general individual differences in solving of problems in heuristics-and-biases experiments is fundamentally subversive to the Meliorist research program's attention-getting claim that human thought is “systematically irrational.” Since some people get these problems right, studies of heuristics and biases may reduce to repeated demonstrations that difficult questions are hard to solve.
Suppose the principles explaining how the human mind (brain) reaches logical conclusions and judgments were different from – and independent of – thoseinvolved innormatively valid reasoning. Then such principles should affect both conclusion generation and recognition that particular conclusions are or are not justified. People, however, demonstrate a discrepancy between impaired performance in generating logical conclusions as opposed to rather impressive competence in recognizing rational (versus irrational) ones. This discrepancy is hypothesized to arise from often generating an incomplete specification of (...) a logical or judgmental problem when attempting to solve it – versus a recognition of such incompleteness when it is pointed out. The basic argument is developed, with common examples, in the context of specifying or failing to specify all possible combinations in simple logical arguments and is then extended to probabilistic reasoning, where complete versus incomplete specification corresponds to attending to all or to only some components of Bayes theorem-based reasoning. (shrink)
Sarah Stroud and Christine Tappolet present eleven original essays on weakness of will, a topic straddling the divide between moral philosophy and philosophy of mind, and the subject of much current attention. An international team of established scholars and younger talent provide perspectives on all the key issues in this fascinating debate; the book will be essential reading for anyone working in the area.
Why do marketing managers in the transitional economies of Eastern Europe and China often engage in competitively irrational behavior, choosing pricing strategies that damage competitors’ profits, rather than choosing pricing strategies that improve their firm’s profits? We propose one possible reason, the moral vacuum created by the collapse of communist ideology. We hypothesize and find that managers who experienced formal communist moral ideological indoctrination are less likely to be competitively irrational than the post-communist managers who did not. Implications are discussed.