This article examines the nature of rationality. The domain of rationality is customarily divided into the theoretical and the practical. Whereas theoretical or epistemic rationality is concerned with what it is rational to believe, and sometimes with rational degrees of belief, practical rationality is concerned with what it is rational to do, or intend or desire to do. This article raises some of the main issues relevant to philosophical discussion of the nature of rationality. Discussions (...) of the nature of practical rationality and reason concern norms of choice, and it seems that if such norms are not arbitrary, arguments over what those norms are must ultimately be a theoretical matter. Furthermore, this article explores rationality's role in and relation to other domains of inquiry: psychology, gender, personhood, language, science, economics, law, and evolution. (shrink)
There are two main views about the nature of personal identity. I shall briehy describe these views, say without argument which I believe to be true, and then discuss the implications of this view for one of the main conceptions of rationality. This conception I shall call "C1assical Prudence." I shall argue that, on what I believe to be the true view about personal identity, Classical Prudence is indefensible.
I argue that the "why be rational?" challenge raised by John Broome and Niko Kolodny rests upon a mistake that is analogous to the mistake that H.A. Pritchard famously claimed beset the “why be moral?” challenge. The failure to locate an independent justification for obeying rational requirements should do nothing whatsoever to undermine our belief in the normativity of rationality. I suggest that we should conceive of the demand for a satisfactory vindicating explanation of the normativity of rationality (...) instead in terms of the demand for a philosophical characterisation of rationality that can do something to explain why rational requirements are the kinds of things that are, by their very nature, normative. I consider several accounts that have recently been offered – the distinctive-object account, the proper functioning account, and the subjective reasons account – and argue that none succeeds in meeting this challenge. I then sketch a new account, the “first-personal authority account”, which holds that rational requirements are what I call “standpoint-relative demands” concerning the attitudes we ought to have and form; and that complying with rational requirements is a matter of honouring our first-personal authority as agents. I suggest that the first-personal authority account does a better job of meeting the challenge. (shrink)
I argue that some cases of delusions show the inadequacy of those theories of interpretation that rely on a necessary rationality constraint on belief ascription. In particular I challenge the view that irrational beliefs can be ascribed only against a general background of rationality. Subjects affected by delusions seem to be genuine believers and their behaviour can be successfully explained in intentional terms, but they do not meet those criteria that according to Davidson (1985a) need to be met (...) for the background of rationality to be in place. (shrink)
The study of rationality and practical reason, or rationality in action, has been central to Western intellectual culture. In this invigorating book, John Searle lays out six claims of what he calls the Classical Model of rationality and shows why they are false. He then presents an alternative theory of the role of rationality in thought and action. -/- A central point of Searle's theory is that only irrational actions are directly caused by beliefs and desires—for (...) example, the actions of a person in the grip of an obsession or addiction. In most cases of rational action, there is a gap between the motivating desire and the actual decision making. The traditional name for this gap is "freedom of the will." According to Searle, all rational activity presupposes free will. For rationality is possible only where one has a choice among various rational as well as irrational options. -/- Unlike many philosophical tracts, Rationality in Action invites the reader to apply the author's ideas to everyday life. Searle shows, for example, that contrary to the traditional philosophical view, weakness of will is very common. He also points out the absurdity of the claim that rational decision making always starts from a consistent set of desires. Rational decision making, he argues, is often about choosing between conflicting reasons for action. In fact, humans are distinguished by their ability to be rationally motivated by desire-independent reasons for action. Extending his theory of rationality to the self, Searle shows how rational deliberation presupposes an irreducible notion of the self. He also reveals the idea of free will to be essentially a thesis of how the brain works. (shrink)
This paper attempts to connect recent cross-disciplinary treatments of the cognitive or rational significance of emotions with work in contemporary philosophy identifying an evaluative propositional content of emotions. An emphasis on the perspectival nature of emotional evaluations allows for a notion of emotional rationality that does not seem to be available on alternative accounts.
This is a book on morality, rationality, and the interconnections between the two. In it, I defend a version of consequentialism that both comports with our commonsense moral intuitions and shares with other consequentialist theories the same compelling teleological conception of practical reasons.
It is often taken for granted in standard theories of interpretation that there cannot be intentionality without rationality. According to the background argument, a system can be interpreted as having irrational beliefs only against a general background of rationality. Starting from the widespread assumption that delusions can be reasonably described as irrational beliefs, I argue here that the background argument fails to account for their intentional description.
In “Vindicating the Normativity of Rationality,” Nicholas Southwood proposes that rational requirements are best understood as demands of one’s “first-personal standpoint.” Southwood argues that this view can “explain the normativity or reason-giving force” of rationality by showing that they “are the kinds of thing that are, by their very nature, normative.” We argue that the proposal fails on three counts: First, we explain why demands of one’s first-personal standpoint cannot be both reason-giving and resemble requirements of rationality. (...) Second, the proposal runs headlong into the now familiar “bootstrapping” objection that helped illuminate the need to vindicate the normativity of rationality in the first place. Lastly, even if Southwood is right—the demands of rationality just are the demands or our first-personal standpoints—the explanation as to why our standpoints generate reasons will entail that we sometimes have no reason at all to be rational. (shrink)
The paper shows why and how an empirical study of fast-and-frugal heuristics can provide norms of good reasoning, and thus how (and how far) rationality can be naturalized. We explain the heuristics that humans often rely on in solving problems, for example, choosing investment strategies or apartments, placing bets in sports, or making library searches. We then show that heuristics can lead to judgments that are as accurate as or even more accurate than strategies that use more information and (...) computation, including optimization methods. A standard way to defend the use of heuristics is by reference to accuracy-effort trade-offs. We take a different route, emphasizing ecological rationality (the relationship between cognitive heuristics and environment), and argue that in uncertain environments, more information and computation are not always better (the “less-can-be-more” doctrine). The resulting naturalism about rationality is thus normative because it not only describes what heuristics people use, but also in which specific environments one should rely on a heuristic in order to make better inferences. While we desist from claiming that the scope of ecological rationality is unlimited, we think it is of wide practical use. (shrink)
In this paper, I explore the question of whether the expected consequences of holding a belief can affect the rationality of doing so. Special attention is given to various ways in which one might attempt to exert some measure of control over what one believes and the normative status of the beliefs that result from the successful execution of such projects. I argue that the lessons which emerge from thinking about the case ofbelief have important implications for the way (...) we should think about the rationality of a number of other propositional attitudes,such as regret, desire, and fear. Finally,I suggest that a lack of clarity with respect to the relevant issues has given rise to a number of rather serious philosophical mistakes. (shrink)
In this paper I argue that the enkratic principle in its classic formulation is not a requirement of rationality. However, it is a requirement of another kind, an agential requirement. I discuss how we can distinguish rational requirements from agential requirements, and why both kinds of requirements are important for understanding our expectations about individual agents.
Current psychology of human reasoning is divided into several different approaches. For instance, there is a major dispute over the question whether human beings are able to apply norms of the formal models of rationality such as rules of logic, or probability and decision theory, correctly. While researchers following the “heuristics and biases” approach argue that we deviate systematically from these norms, and so are perhaps deeply irrational, defenders of the “bounded rationality” approach think not only that the (...) evidence for this conclusion is problematic but also that we should not, at least not very often, use formal norms in reasoning. I argue that while the evidence for heuristics and biases is indeed questionable, the bounded rationality approach has its limits too. Most especially, we should not infer that formal norms play no role in a comprehensive theory of rationality. Instead, formal and bounded rules of reasoning might even be connected in a more comprehensive theory of rationality. (shrink)
The relations between rationality and optimization have been widely discussed in the wake of Herbert Simon's work, with the common conclusion that the rationality concept does not imply the optimization principle. The paper is partly concerned with adding evidence for this view, but its main, more challenging objective is to question the converse implication from optimization to rationality, which is accepted even by bounded rationality theorists. We discuss three topics in succession: (1) rationally defensible cyclical choices, (...) (2) the revealed preference theory of optimization, and (3) the infinite regress of optimization. We conclude that (1) and (2) provide evidence only for the weak thesis that rationality does not imply optimization. But (3) is seen to deliver a significant argument for the strong thesis that optimization does not imply rationality. (shrink)
Does rationality require us to take the means to our ends? Intuitively, it seems clear that it does. And yet it has proven difficult to explain why this should be so: after all, if one is pursuing an end that one has decisive reason not to pursue, the balance of reasons will presumably speak against one's taking the means necessary to bring that end about. In this paper I propose a novel account of the instrumental requirement which addresses this (...) problem. On the view I develop, the instrumental requirement is normative not because agents have reasons to comply with it, but because it is a normative standard intrinsic to intentional action—i.e., it is a standard that partly spells out what it is to exercise one's agency well. (shrink)
In this paper I criticize Popper's conception of the rationality principle in the social sciences. First, I survey Popper's outlook on the role of a principle of rationality in theorizing in the social sciences. Then, I critically examine his view on the status of the principle of rationality concluding that the arguments supporting it are quite weak. Finally, I contrast his standpoint with an alternative conception. This, I show, helps us understand better Popper's reasons for adopting his (...) perspective on rationality. (shrink)
The Humean conception of the self consists in the belief-desire model of motivation and the utility-maximizing model of rationality. This conception has dominated Western thought in philosophy and the social sciences ever since Hobbes’ initial formulation in Leviathan and Hume’s elaboration in the Treatise of Human Nature. Bentham, Freud, Ramsey, Skinner, Allais, von Neumann and Morgenstern and others have added further refinements that have brought it to a high degree of formal sophistication. Late twentieth century moral philosophers such as (...) Rawls, Brandt, Frankfurt, Nagel and Williams have taken it for granted, and have made use of it to supply metaethical foundations for a wide variety of normative moral theories. But the Humean conception of the self also leads to seemingly insoluble problems about moral motivation, rational final ends, and moral justification. Can it be made to work? (shrink)
Many different arguments against the possibility of perfect rationality have appeared in the literature, and these target several different conceptions of perfect rationality. It is not clear how these different conceptions of perfect rationality are related, nor is it clear how the arguments showing their impossibility are related, and it is especially unclear what the impossibility results show when taken together. This paper gives an exposition of the different conceptions of perfect rationality, an the various sorts (...) of argument against them; clarifies which conceptions of perfect rationality are targeted by which arguments; and finally attempts to systematize the results available to date. (shrink)
The aim of this paper is to clarify the role of the distinction between belief and opinion in the light of Dennett's intentional stance. In particular, I consider whether the distinction could be used for a defence of the stance from various criticisms. I will then apply the distinction to the so-called `paradoxes of irrationality'. In this context I will propose that we should avoid the postulation of `boundaries' or `gaps' within the mind, and will attempt to show that a (...) useful treatment of the paradoxes can be obtained by revising the rationality assumption. (shrink)
A tacit and highly idealized model of the agent's memory is presupposed in philosophy. The main features of a more psychologically realistic duplex (orn-plex) model are sketched here. It is argued that an adequate understanding of the rationality of an agent's actions is not possible without a satisfactory theory of the agent's memory and of the trade-offs involved in management of the memory, particularly involving compartmentalization of the belief set. The discussion identifies some basic constraints on the organization of (...) knowledge representations in general. (shrink)
In this paper I argue that excising a final end from accounts of virtue does them more harm than good. I attempt to establish that the justification of contemporary virtue ethics suffers if moved this one step too far from the resources in traditional accounts. This is because virtue, as we tend to describe it, rests on an account of practical rationality wherein the role of the final end is integral. I highlight the puzzles that are generated by the (...) ellipsis that is “the role of a final end” in contemporary theories of virtue. The authors of these theories devise ad hoc solutions for these puzzles, puzzles that do not exist for traditional final end-based accounts. Recent critics of virtue ethics have certainly not been satisfied the explanations being offer in lieu of references to a final end. As a remedy, I recommend that the role of a final end be reintroduced in contemporary virtue ethics. I hope to explain that there is nothing to be frightened of and much to be gained. (shrink)
The dominant tradition in Western philosophy sees rationality as dictating. Thus rationality may require that we believe the best explanation and simple conceptual truths and that we infer in accordance with evident rules of inference. I argue that, given what we know about the growth of knowledge, this authoritarian concept of rationality leads to absurdities and should be abandoned. I then outline a libertarian concept of rationality, derived from Popper, which eschews the dictates and which sees (...) a rational agent as one who questions, criticises, conjectures and experiments. I argue that, while the libertarian approach escapes the absurdities of the authoritarian, it requires two significant developments and an important clarification to be made fully consistent with itself. (shrink)
David Papineau presents a controversial view of human reason, portraying it as a normal part of the natural world, and drawing on the empirical sciences to illuminate its workings. In these six interconnected essays he discusses both theoretical and practical rationality, and shows how evolutionary theory, decision theory, and quantum mechanics offer fresh approaches to some long-standing problems.
We discuss Sharon Ryan’s Deep Rationality Theory of wisdom, defended recently in her “Wisdom, Knowledge and Rationality.” We argue that (a) Ryan’s use of the term “rationality” needs further elaboration; (b) there is a problem with requiring that the wise person possesses justified beliefs but not necessarily knowledge; (c) the conditions of DRT are not all necessary; (d) the conditions are not sufficient. At the end of our discussion, we suggest that there may be a problem with (...) the very assumption that an informative, non-circular set of necessary and sufficient conditions of wisdom can be given. (shrink)
This paper argues that Davidson's claim that the connection between belief and the "constitutive ideal of rationality" precludes the possibility of any type-type identities between mental and physical events relies on blurring the distinction between two ways of understanding this "constitutive ideal", and that no consistent understanding the constitutive ideal allows it to play the dialectical role Davidson intends for it.
The basic task of the essay is to exhibit science as a rational enterprise. I argue that in order to do this we need to change quite fundamentally our whole conception of science. Today it is rather generally taken for granted that a precondition for science to be rational is that in science we do not make substantial assumptions about the world, or about the phenomena we are investigating, which are held permanently immune from empirical appraisal. According to this standard (...) view, science is rational precisely because science does not make a priori metaphysical presuppositions about the world forever preserved from possible empirical refutation. It is of course accepted that an individual scientist, developing a new theory, may well be influenced by his own metaphysical presuppositions. In addition, it is acknowledged that a successful scientific theory, within the context of a particular research program, may be protected for a while from refutation, thus acquiring a kind of temporary metaphysical status, as long as the program continues to be empirically progressive. All such views unite, however, in maintaining that science cannot make permanent metaphysical presuppositions, held permanently immune from objective empirical evaluation. According to this standard view, the rationality of science arises, not from the way in which new theories are discovered, but rather from the way in which already formulated theories are appraised in the light of empirical considerations. And the fundamental problem of the rationality of science—the Humean problem of induction— concerns precisely the crucial issue of the rationality of accepting theories in the light of evidence. In this essay I argue that this widely accepted standard conception of science must be completely rejected if we are to see science as a rational enterprise. In order to assess the rationality of accepting a theory in the light of evidence it is essential to consider the ultimate aims of science. This is because adopting different aims for science will lead us, quite rationally, to accept different theories in the light of evidence. I argue that a basic aim of science is to explain. At the outset science simply presupposes, in a completely a priori fashion, that explanations can be found, that the world is ultimately intelligible or simple. In other words, science simply presupposes in an a priori way the metaphysical thesis that the world is intelligible, and then seeks to convert this presupposed metaphysical theory into a testable scientific theory. Scientific theories are only accepted insofar as they promise to help us realize this fundamental aim. At once a crucial problem arises. If scientific theories are only accepted insofar as they promise to lead us towards articulating a presupposed metaphysical theory, it is clearly essential that we can choose rationally, in an a priori way, between all the very different possible metaphysical theories that can be thought up, all the very different ways in which the universe might ultimately be intelligible. For holding different aims, accepting different metaphysical theories conceived of as blueprints for future scientific theories will, quite rationally, lead us to accept different scientific theories. Thus it is only if we can choose rationally between conflicting metaphysical blueprints for future scientific theories that we will be in a position to appraise rationally the acceptability of our present day scientific theories. We thus face the crucial problem: How can we choose rationally between conflicting possible aims for science, conflicting metaphysical blueprints for future scientific theories ? It is only if we can solve this fundamental problem concerning the aims of science that we can be in a position to appraise rationally the acceptability of existing scientific theories. There is a further point here. If we could choose rationally between rival aims, rival metaphysical blueprints for future scientific theories, then we would in effect have a rational method for the discovery of new scientific theories! Thus we reach the result: there is only a rational method for the appraisal of existing scientific theories if there is a rational method of discovery. I shall argue that the aim-oriented theory of scientific inquiry to be advocated here succeeds in exhibiting science as a rational enterprise in that it succeeds in providing a rational procedure for choosing between rival metaphysical blueprints: it thus provides a rational, if fallible, method of discovery, and a rational method for the appraisal of existing scientific theories—thus resolving the Humean problem. In Part I of the essay I argue that the orthodox conception of science fails to exhibit science as a rational enterprise because it fails to solve the Humean problem of induction. The presuppositional view advocated here does however succeed in resolving the Humean problem. In Part II of the essay I spell out the new aim-oriented theory of scientific method that becomes inevitable once we accept the basic presuppositional viewpoint. I argue that this new aim oriented conception of scientific method is essentially a rational method of scientific discovery, and that the theory has important implications for scientific practice. (shrink)
According to Popper's rationality principle, agents act in the most adequate way according to the objective situation. I propose a new interpretation of the rationality principle as consisting of an idealization and two abstractions. Based on this new interpretation, I critically discuss the privileged status that Popper ascribes to it as an integral part of all social scientific models. I argue that as an idealization, the rationality principle may play an important role in the social sciences, but (...) it also has inherent limitations that inhibit it from having the privileged status that Popper ascribes to it in all cases. (shrink)
In this book, Edward Stein offers a clear critical account of the debate about rationality in philosophy and cognitive science. He discusses concepts of rationality--the pictures of rationality on which the debate centers--and assesses the empirical evidence used to argue that humans are irrational. He concludes that the question of human rationality must be answered not conceptually but empirically, using the full resources of an advanced cognitive science. Furthermore, he extends this conclusion to argue that empirical (...) considerations are also relevant to the theory of knowledge--in other words, that epistemology should be naturalized. (shrink)
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 with the possibility of social science if we invoke Popper’s conception of limited rationality and his indeterminism. (shrink)
A tempting argument for human rationality goes like this: it is more conducive to survival to have true beliefs than false beliefs, so it is more conducive to survival to use reliable belief-forming strategies than unreliable ones. But reliable strategies are rational strategies, so there is a selective advantage to using rational strategies. Since we have evolved, we must use rational strategies. In this paper I argue that some criticisms of this argument offered by Stephen Stich fail because they (...) rely on unsubstantiated interpretations of some results from experimental psychology. I raise two objections to the argument: (i) even if it is advantageous to use rational strategies, it does not follow that we actually use them; and (ii) natural selection need not favor only or even primarily reliable belief-forming strategies. (shrink)
In discussions surrounding epistemology and rationality, it is often useful to assume an agent is rational or ideally rational. Often, this ideal rationality assumption is spelled out along the following lines: -/- 1. The agent believes everything about a situation which the evidence entitles her to believe and nothing which it does not. -/- 2. The agent believes all the logical consequences of any of her beliefs. -/- 3. The agent knows her own mind: if she believes P, (...) she believes that she believes P; and if she doesn't believe P, she believes that she doesn't believe P. -/- 4. The agent believes nothing of the form 'P and it is not the case that P.' -/- 5. If an agent's background belief-set satisfies 1-4 and if rationality requires the agent to add P to her belief-set, then the resulting belief-set will also satisfy 1-4. -/- While individually plausible, there are cases in which holding on to 1-5 generates paradox. Some resolve such paradoxical cases by granting 1-5 but arguing while ideally rational agents can exist, they can't possibly ever find themselves in such a situation: such case descriptions are epistemically incoherent. Others allow that rational agents can coherently find themselves in such odd circumstances, and argue that it's more reasonable to weaken our concept of ideal rationality and give up premise (2) above. However, this strategy has also been rejected. My aim in this paper is to defend the utility of positing an ideally rational agent in such paradoxical circumstances. I argue in such cases we should give up (2), in particular the assumption that (necessarily) if an ideally rational agent believes both P and the conditional, if P then Q, then she believes Q.. What's important is to hold on to the goal of positing ideal rationality: to maximize the amount of true or probably true information a thinker can justifiably believe in a given circumstance. Normally that will mean holding on to (2), but these unusual paradoxical cases are best handled by giving up (2). (shrink)
There are arguments which purport to rebut psychological determinism by appealing to its alleged incompatibility with rationality. I argue that they all fail. Against Davidson, I argue that rationality does not preclude the existence of psychological laws. Against Popper, I argue that rationality is compatible with the possibility of predicting human actions. Against Schlesinger, I claim that Newcomb's problem cannot be invoked to show that human actions are unpredictable. Having vindicated the possibility of a rationally-based theory of (...) action, I consider the form it might take. (shrink)
We develop a logical system that captures two different interpretations of what extensive games model, and we apply this to a long-standing debate in game theory between those who defend the claim that common knowledge of rationality leads to backward induction or subgame perfect (Nash) equilibria and those who reject this claim. We show that a defense of the claim à la Aumann (1995) rests on a conception of extensive game playing as a one-shot event in combination with a (...) principle of rationality that is incompatible with it, while a rejection of the claim à la Reny (1988) assumes a temporally extended, many-moment interpretation of extensive games in combination with implausible belief revision policies. In addition, the logical system provides an original inductive and implicit axiomatization of rationality in extensive games based on relations of dominance rather than the usual direct axiomatization of rationality as maximization of expected utility. (shrink)
This paper offers a new definition of "adaptationism". An evolutionary account is adaptationist, it is suggested, if it allows for multiple independent origins for the same function -- i.e., if it violates the "Unique Origin Constraint". While this account captures much of the position Gould and Lewontin intended to stigmatize, it leaves it open that adaptationist accounts may sometimes be appropriate. However, there are many important cases, including that of human rationality, in which it is not.
This essay is a plea for the view that philosophers should analyze the concept of self-deception more with the aim of having useful applications for empirical research. This is especially desirable because psychologists often use different, even incompat-ible conceptions of self-deception when investigating the factual conditions and con-sequences, as well as the very existence, of the phenomenon. At the same time, philosophers who exploit psychological research on human cognition and reasoning in order to better understand self-deception fail to realize that (...) these theories and data are loaded with problematic assumptions. More specifically, I discuss what conceptions of rationality are assumed when we describe cases of self-deception as either irra-tional or as adaptively rational, and how competing ontological models of the self ap-pear in different accounts of self-deception. I argue, first, that although the self typically is an object of such deception, it is not always so. Secondly, while it is the subject of deception, it is so only in a moderate way: We need neither assume multi-ple selves, nor is self-deception typically brought about or sustained intentionally. However, the avoidance of self-deception is at least sometimes under the subject’s ra-tional control. This account does not take for granted the existence of the phenomenon of self-deception. It is a serious task of empirical research to figure out whether self-deception really occurs. This issue also depends on the question ignored until now of what normative conception of rationality is assumed when one views certain beliefs as self-deceptive. (shrink)
Knowing one’s past thoughts and attitudes is a vital sort of self-knowledge. In the absence of memorial impressions to serve as evidence, we face a pressing question of how such self-knowledge is possible. Recently, philosophers of mind have argued that self-knowledge of past attitudes supervenes on rationality. I examine two kinds of argument for this supervenience claim, one from cognitive dynamics, and one from practical rationality, and reject both. I present an alternative account, on which knowledge of past (...) attitudes is inferential knowledge, and depends upon contingent facts of one’s rationality and consistency. Failures of self-knowledge are better explained by the inferential account. (shrink)
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)
To the normal reasons that we think can justify one in preferring something, x (namely, that x has objectively preferable properties, or has properties that one prefers things to have, or that x's obtaining would advance one's preferences), I argue that it can be a justifying reason to prefer x that one's very preferring of x would advance one's preferences. Here, one prefers x not because of the properties of x, but because of the properties of one's having the preference (...) for x. So-revising one's preferences is rational in paradoxical choice situations like Kavka's Deterrence Paradox. I then try to meet the following objections: that this is stoicist, incoherent, bad faith; that it conflates instrumental and intrinsic value, gives wrong solutions to the problems presented by paradoxical choice situations, entails vicious regresses of value justification, falsifies value realism, makes valuing x unresponsive to x's properties, causes value conflict, conflicts with other standards of rationality, violates decision theory, counsels immorality, makes moral paradox, treats value change as voluntary, conflates first- and second-order values, is psychologically unrealistic, and wrongly presumes that paradoxical choice situations can even occur. (shrink)
I argue that Gauthier's constrained-maximizer rationality is problematic. But standard Maximizing Rationality means one's preferences are only rational if it would not maximize on them to adopt new ones. In the Prisoner's Dilemma, it maximizes to adopt conditionally cooperative preferences. (These are detailed, with a view to avoiding problems of circularity of definition.) Morality then maximizes. I distinguish the roles played in rational choices and their bases by preferences, dispositions, moral and rational principles, the aim of rational action, (...) and rational decision rules. I argue that Maximizing Rationality necessarily structures conclusive reasons for action. Thus conations of any sort can base rational choices only if the conations are structured like a coherent preference function; rational actions maximize on such functions. Maximization-constraining dispositions cannot integrate into a coherent preference function. (shrink)
David Bloor’s thought experiment is taken into consideration to suggest that the rationality of the Other cannot be inferred by way of argument for the reason that it is unavoidably contained as a hidden supposition by any argument engaged in proving it. We are able to understand a different culture only as far as we recognize in it the same kind of rationality that works in our own culture. Another kind of rationality is either impossible, or indiscernible.
Recent evidence suggests that performance on reasoning tasks may reflect the operation of a number of distinct cognitive mechanisms and processes. This paper explores the implications of this view of the mind for the descriptive and normative assessment of reasoning. I suggest that descriptive questions such as “Are we equipped to reason using rule X?” and normative questions such as “Are we rational?” are obsolete—they do not possess a fine enough grain of architectural resolution to accurately characterize the mind. I (...) explore how this general lesson can apply to specific experimental interpretations, and suggest that 'rationality' must be evaluated along a number of importantly distinct dimensions. (shrink)
This paper examines the sense and extent to which emotions can be thought of as rational. Through considering a number of examples, it argues (a) that there is more than one way of understanding the claims that we often make about emotions being “rational” or “justified”; (b) that none of the models of rationality already available to us can singly account for all of the various senses in which we think of emotions as rational; yet (c) that they can (...) do so jointly, that is, by each explicating at least one of these senses. Thus, in the end it is suggested that, despite it not being right to identify emotions with either beliefs or actions, there is no obvious reason to believe that the claims we make about the rationality of our emotions need to be understood by appeal to any separate model of rationality, specific to the emotions, additional to the “cognitive” and “strategic” models already available to us for understanding the rationality of other states like beliefs and judgements on the one hand, and actions on the other. (shrink)
In Chapter 2 of Escape from Leviathan, Jan Lester defends two hypotheses: that instrumental rationality requires agents to maximise the satisfaction of their wants and that all agents actually meet this requirement. In addition, he argues that all agents are self-interested (though not necessarily egoistic) and he offers an account of categorical moral desires which entails that no agent ever does what he genuinely feels to be morally wrong. I show that Lester’s two hypotheses are false because they cannot (...) accommodate weakness of will, because they are inconsistent with agency, which requires free will, because ends, obligations and values cannot be reduced to desires, and because maximisation is often not possible. Further, Lester’s claim that agents are self-interested is vacuous, his attempted reduction of moral behaviour to want-satisfaction fails, and his contention, that agents always do what they genuinely think to be morally required, seems untenable. A defence of freedom that depends on homo economicus is far from promising. (shrink)
A brief review of recent experimental work by T.D. Wilson et al. on the disruptive effects of deliberation provides an opportunity for extending an alternative interpretation of those effects first offered in this journal [D.L. Holt (1993) Rationality is hard work: an alternative interpretation of the disruptive effects of thinking about reasons, Philosophical Psychology, 6, 251-266]. I therefore propose a thought experiment in which the favored parameters of much social psychological experimentation, including the specific parameters of Wilson et al., (...) are reversed. (shrink)
I argue here that sophisticated AI systems, with the exception of those aimed at the psychological modeling of human cognition, must be based on general philosophical theories of rationality and, conversely, philosophical theories of rationality should be tested by implementing them in AI systems. So the philosophy and the AI go hand in hand. I compare human and generic rationality within a broad philosophy of AI and conclude by suggesting that ultimately, virtually all familiar philosophical problems will (...) turn out to be at least indirectly relevant to the task of building an autonomous rational agent, and conversely, the AI enterprise has the potential to throw light at least indirectly on most philosophical problems. (shrink)
In this paper I illustrate what is reconstructive rationality, a notion that remains rather undetermined in Robert Brandom's work. I argue that theoretical and historical thinking are instances of reconstruction and should not be identified with it. I then explore a further instance of rational reconstruction, which Brandom calls “reconstructive metaphysics”, arguing that the demarcation between metaphysical and non-metaphysical theories has to be understood as a pragmatic one. Finally, I argue that Brandom’s reconstructive metaphysics is basically a pragmatist metaphysics. (...) Here I try to outline a pragmatist understanding of the concept of metaphysics in order to reconcile Brandom's more or less implicit attempt at metaphysical theorizing with his devotion to a pragmatist tradition that is resistant if not hostile to the very idea of metaphysics. Hence I come back to the question of how pragmatism has contributed to the understanding of “reconstructive rationality”, and argue that the latter is a notion of rationality which is needed by Brandom’s philosophy but which cannot find a clear place in the typology of the five forms of rationality that he introduces, being more akin to the core structure of rationality rather than a specific form of it. (shrink)
This article proposes a reading of Michel de Certeau's The Writing of History which derives an understanding of the concept of practice as authoritative to the establishment and development of Enlightenment rationality. It is seen as a new form of legitimation established in the redeployment of religious ‘formalities’ in early modernity, supportive of the ostensible deliverance of the projects of reason. Subversive of its moral and ideological operations and geneses, this is an understanding of practice whose subject is the (...) state. Practice, as de Certeau advances it, led to the development of a concept of education productive of a regulatory ambit of social utility, and the student as both a figure of the utile and its moral postulate. This article thematizes the authoritative formality of the concept of practice in its hegemonic origins from early modernity to the thought of Karl Marx. It provides a needed supplement to Marx's still provocative contribution to a persistent counter-narrative (of practice as stark corrective to the ineffectual interpretive vagaries of ‘theory’), one which elides, and thus reinforces, significant prior, and no less persistent, functions of the concept of practice as here elaborated from de Certeau's The Writing of History. (shrink)
Does a coherentist version of rationality issue requirements on states? Or does it issue requirements on processes? This paper evalu- ates the possibility of process-requirements. It argues that there are two possible definitions of state- and process-requirements: a satisfaction- based definition and a content-based definition. I demonstrate that the satisfaction-based definition is inappropriate. It does not allow us to uphold a clear-cut distinction between state- and process-requirements. We should therefore use a content-based definition of state- and pro- cess-requirements. However, (...) a content-based definition entails that ra- tionality does not issue process-requirements. Content-based process- requirements violate the principle that ‘rationality requires’ implies ‘can satisfy’. The conclusion of this paper therefore amounts to a radical re- jection of process-requirements of rationality. (shrink)
This article is an extension of the author’s previous work on this subject. Primarily it outlines the main directions of this mode of analysis and possible fields to which it could be applied. The first chapter demonstrates a specific method of understanding emotions. The second chapter examines the concept of emotions as a source of the specific modes of “internal” rationality of an agent. The third chapter isdevoted to a comparison between various emotions and the two basic intentional states (...) - belief and desire. The fourth chapter will present the instrumental typology of certain emotional concepts. The final chapter represents preliminary logical schema of the meanings of emotional concepts. (shrink)
The requirements of rationality are fundamental in practical and theoretical philosophy. Nonetheless, there exists no usable account of what constitutes rational requirements. This paper attempts to provide a correct constitutive account of ‘rationality requires’. I argue that rational requirements are grounded in ‘necessary explanations’, as I shall put it. Rationality requires of you to X if and only if your rational capacities, in conjunction with the fact that you not-X, explain necessarily why you have a non-maximal degree (...) of rationality. (shrink)
In this paper I illustrate how a basic kind of universal rationality can be profitably combined with undeniable instances of relativism. I do so by engaging Michael Friedman’s recent response to a challenge from Thomas Kuhn.
This collection of essays is dedicated to William Rowe, with great affection, respect, and admiration. The philosophy of religion, once considered a deviation from an otherwise analytically rigorous discipline, has flourished over the past two decades. This collection of new essays by twelve distinguished philosophers of religion explores three broad themes: religious attitudes of faith, belief, acceptance, and love; human and divine freedom; and the rationality of religious belief. Contributors include: William Alston, Robert Audi, Jan Cover, Martin Curd, Peter (...) van Inwagen, Norman Kretzmann, George Nakhnikian, John Hawthorne, Philip Quinn, James Ross, Eleonore Stump, and William Wainwright. (shrink)
A vagueza é comumente representada pela adoção de significados imprecisos na linguagem natural. Ela é analisada como um caso limítrofe e formalizada de diversas maneiras pelas suas teorias “clássicas”. Este trabalho propõe uma abordagem diferente do tema através da adoção do conceito de Racionalidade Soft ( Soft Rationality ), elaborado por Marcelo Dascal, e da sua interpretação como o uso da “semelhança” ao invés da “análise” para a compreensão dos termos da linguagem natural. Aqui será feita a sugestão de (...) que a Racionalidade Soft (branda), enquanto teoria sobre a vagueza, permanece no domínio da ‘intensionalidade’ ao invés de buscar uma explicação formalizada e ‘extensional’ para o tema. DOI:10.5007/1808-1711.2011v15n2p349. (shrink)
Cohen (1981) and others have made an interesting argument for the thesis that humans are rational: normative principles of reasoning and actual human reasoning ability cannot diverge because both are determined by the same process involving our intuitions about what constitutes good reasoning as a starting point. Perhaps the most sophisticated version of this argument sees reflective equilibrium as the process that determines both what the norms of reasoning are and what actual cognitive competence is. In this essay, I will (...) evaluate both the general argument that humans are rational and the reflective equilibrium argument for the same thesis. While I find both accounts initially appealing, I will argue that neither successfully establishes that humans are rational. (shrink)
Can we test philosophical thought experiments, such as whether people would enter an experience machine or would leave one once they are inside? Dan Weijers, responding to me "Can We Test the Experience Machine?" suggests that since “rational” subjects (e.g. students taking surveys in class) are believable, we can do so. By contrast, I argue that because such subjects have the wrong affect (i.e. emotional state), such tests are worthless. Moreover, understood as a general policy, such pretend testing would ruin (...) the results of most psychological tests, such as those of helping behavior, attitudes to authority, moral transgressions, etc. However, I argue that certain philosophical thought experiments do not require us to have any affect to understand them, and so can be tested. Generally, experimental philosophy must adhere to this limit, on pain of offering vacuous results. (shrink)
Recent advances in the cognitive psychology of inference have been of great interest to philosophers of science. The present paper reviews one such area, namely studies based upon Wason's 4-card selection task. It is argued that interpretation of the results of the experiments is complex, because a variety of inference strategies may be used by subjects to select evidence needed to confirm or disconfirm a hypothesis. Empirical evidence suggests that which strategy is used depends in part on the semantic, syntactic, (...) and pragmatic context of the inference problem at hand. Since the factors of importance are also present in real-world science, and similarly complicate its interpretation, the selection task, though it does not present a quick fix, represents a kind of microcosm of great utility for the understanding of science. Several studies which have examined selection strategies in more complex problem-solving environments are also reviewed, in an attempt to determine the limits of generalizability of the simpler selection tasks. Certain interpretational misuses of laboratory research are described, and a claim made that the issue of whether or not scientists are rational should be approached by philosophers and psychologists with appropriate respect for the complexities of the issue. (shrink)
Derek Parfit claims that all that rationally matters for a person is psychological connectedness or continuity, even without identity. A psychological replica of a person whose body is destroyed upon the replication rationally should be considered just as valuable as the original person. I argue against this, maintaining that any such copying procedure would be objectionable. First, I argue that a copy of an original person does not preserve identity to the original person. And second, I argue that because a (...) copy does not retain the identity of the orignial, it is not irrational to regard a copy as of less value than the original. (shrink)
Neo-Humean instrumentalist theories of reasons for acting have been presented with a dilemma: either they are normatively trivial and, hence, inadequate as a normative theory or they covertly commit themselves to a noninstrumentalist normative principle. The claimed result is that no purely instrumentalist theory of reasons for acting can be normatively adequate. This dilemma dissolves when we understand what question neo-Humean instrumentalists are addressing. The dilemma presupposes that neo-Humeans are attempting to address the question of how to act, 'simpliciter'. Instead, (...) they are evaluating actions from the agent's normative perspective. (shrink)
During the last 25 years, researchers studying human reasoning and judgment in what has become known as the “heuristics and biases” tradition have produced an impressive body of experimental work which many have seen as having “bleak implications” for the rationality of ordinary people (Nisbett and Borgida 1975). According to one proponent of this view, when we reason about probability we fall victim to “inevitable illusions” (Piattelli-Palmarini 1994). Other proponents maintain that the human mind is prone to “systematic deviations (...) from rationality” (Bazerman & Neale 1986) and is “not built to work by the rules of probability” (Gould 1992). It has even been suggested that human beings are “a species that is uniformly probability-blind” (Piattelli-Palmarini 1994). This provocative and pessimistic interpretation of the experimental findings has been challenged from many different directions over the years. One of the most recent and energetic of these challenges has come from the newly emerging field of evolutionary psychology, where it has been argued that it’s singularly implausible to claim that our species would have evolved with no “instinct for probability” and, hence, be “blind to chance” (Pinker 1997, 351). Though evolutionary psychologists concede that it is possible to design experiments that “trick our probability.. (shrink)
In a series of recent papers, Jane Heal (1994, 1995a, 1995b, 1996a, 1996b) has developed her own quite distinctive version of simulation theory and offered a detailed critique of the arguments against simulation theory that we and our collaborators presented in earlier papers. Heal's theory is clearly set out and carefully defended, and her critique of our arguments is constructive and well informed. Unlike a fair amount of what has been written in this area in recent years, her work is (...) refreshingly free of obscurity; it generates more light than heat. While we have many disagreements with Heal, we also find much that we can agree with and learn from. In this paper we hope to advance the discussion by saying where we agree and how we think we can build on that agreement. We'll also explain where we disagree and why. (shrink)
Abstract: The standard picture of rationality requires that the agent acts so as to realize her most preferred alternative in the light of her own desires and beliefs. However, there are circumstances where such an agent can predict that she will act against her preferences. The story of Ulysses and the Sirens is the paradigmatic example of such cases. In those circumstances the orthodoxy requires the agent to be ‘sophisticated’. That is to say, she should take into account her (...) expected future choices and prevent her future self to act in certain ways. She should ‘bind’ herself to a certain course of action. This is a form of causal commitment. It is generally recognized that this form of self-commitment is the only one that is available to a rational agent. Rational commitment, where the agent gives herself a reason to act in a certain way rather than making herself act in that way, is considered not feasible. In this paper, I question this verdict. I sketch the broad outlines of a model of rational commitment, which takes as its starting point Michael Bratman’s ‘planning theory’ of intention. There are two important objections against this theory (one by John Broome and one by the Dutch philosopher Govert den Hartogh.) Both criticisms claim that such a theory is a form of ‘bootstrapping’ reasons for action into existence. In the remainder of the paper, I will defend the theory against these objections. This way, I hope to establish that defending the feasibility of rational commitment is not an obvious mistake. (shrink)
David Gauthier suggested that all genuine moral problems are Prisoners Dilemmas (PDs), and that the morally and rationally required solution to a PD is to co-operate. I say there are four other forms of moral problem, each a different way of agents failing to be in PDs because of the agents’ preferences. This occurs when agents have preferences that are malevolent, self-enslaving, stingy, or bullying. I then analyze preferences as reasons for action, claiming that this means they must not target (...) the impossible, they must be able to be acted on in the circumstances, their targets must be attainable, and having the preferences must make their targets more likely. For groups of agents to have a distribution of preferences, their preferences must jointly have those four features, this imposing a kind of universalizability requirement on possible preferences. I then claim that, if all agents began with preferences satisfying these requirements, their preferences would not be of the morally problematic sort (on pain, variously, of circularity or contradiction in the specification of their targets). Instead, they would be either morally innocent preferences, or ones which put the agents in PDs. And it would then be instrumentally rational for the agents to prefer mutual co-operation. Thus if all agents initially had rationally permissible preferences and made rational choices of actions and preferences thereafter, they would never acquire immoral preferences, and so never be rationally moved to immoral actions. Further, the states of affairs such agents would be moved to bring about would be compatible with what Rawls’ agents would chose behind a veil of ignorance. Morality therefore reduces to rationality; necessarily, the actions categorically required by morality are also categorically required by rationality. (shrink)
Cosmides, Wason, and Johnson-Laird, among others, have suggested evidence that reasoning abilities tend to be domain specific, insofar as humans do not appear to acquire capacities for logical reasoning that are applicable across different contexts. Unfortunately, the significance of these findings depends upon the specific variety of logical reasoning under consideration. Indeed, there seem to be at least three grounds for doubting such conclusions, since: (1) tests of reasoning involving the use of material conditionals may not be appropriate for representing (...) ordinary thinking, especially when it concerns causal processes involving the use of causal conditionals instead; (2) tests of domain specificity may fail to acknowledge the crucial role fulfilled by rules of inference, such as modus ponens and modus tollens, which appear to be completely general across different contexts; and, (3) tests that focus exclusively upon deductive reasoning may misinterpret findings involving the use of inductive reasoning, which is of primary importance for human evolution. (shrink)