About this topic
Summary

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

Key works

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

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238 found
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1 — 50 / 238
  1. What Ought Probably Means, and Why You Can’T Detach It.Stephen Finlay - 2010 - Synthese 177 (1):67 - 89.
    Some intuitive normative principles raise vexing 'detaching problems' by their failure to license modus ponens. I examine three such principles (a self-reliance principle and two different instrumental principles) and recent stategies employed to resolve their detaching problems. I show that solving these problems necessitates postulating an indefinitely large number of senses for 'ought'. The semantics for 'ought' that is standard in linguistics offers a unifying strategy for solving these problems, but I argue that an alternative approach combining an end-relational theory (...)
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  2. Maximizing, Satisficing and the Normative Distinction Between Means and Ends.Robert Bass - manuscript
    Decision theory, understood as providing a normative account of rationality in action, is often thought to be an adequate formalization of instrumental reasoning. As a model, there is much to be said for it. However, if decision theory is to adequately account for correct instrumental reasoning, then the axiomatic conditions by which it links preference to action must be normative for choice. That is, a choice must be rationally defective unless it proceeds from a preference set that satisfies the axiomatic (...)
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  3. Sunk Costs.Robert Bass - manuscript
    Decision theorists generally object to “honoring sunk costs” – that is, treating the fact that some cost has been incurred in the past as a reason for action, apart from the consideration of expected consequences. This paper critiques the doctrine that sunk costs should never be honored on three levels. As background, the rationale for the doctrine is explained. Then it is shown that if it is always irrational to honor sunk costs, then other common and uncontroversial practices are also (...)
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  4. Ambivalence, Incoherence, and Self-Governance.John Brunero - forthcoming - In Dimitria Gatzia & Berit Brogaard (eds.), The Philosophy and Psychology of Ambivalence: Being of Two Minds. London, UK: Routledge.
    The paper develops two objections to Michael Bratman’s self-governance approach to the normativity of rational requirements. Bratman, drawing upon work by Harry Frankfurt, argues that having a place where one stands is a necessary, constitutive element of self-governance, and that violations of the consistency and coherence requirements on intentions make one lack a place where one stands. This allows for reasons of self-governance to ground reasons to comply with these rational requirements, thereby vindicating the normativity of rationality. The first objection (...)
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  5. Ends and Persons: A Transcendental Argument.David DeMatteo - forthcoming - Episteme: An Undergraduate Journal of Philosophy.
    This paper makes a transcendental argument. It assumes the normative validity of the instrumental principle, and then investigates the conditions of its validity. Ultimately, it argues that there are three necessary conditions for its validity. Firstly, agents must be rationally capable of regarding themselves as having a single self that possesses the same reasons, ends, and means. Secondly, agents must be rationally capable of distinguishing themselves from other selves that possess ends. Thirdly, these two conditions must actually obtain, which means (...)
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  6. From Interrelational Ontology to Instrumental Ethics in Advance.Lenore Langsdorf - forthcoming - Techné: Research in Philosophy and Technology.
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  7. Anscombe and The Difference Rationality Makes.Eric Marcus - forthcoming - In Adrian Haddock & Rachael Wiseman (eds.), Anscombean Minds. Routledge.
    Anscombe famously argues that to act intentionally is to act under a description, and that “it is the agent's knowledge of what he is doing that gives the descriptions under which what is going on is the execution of an intention.” Further, she takes ‘knows’ to mean that the agent can give these descriptions herself. It would seem to follow that animals cannot act intentionally. However, she denies this, insisting that although animals cannot express intentions, they can have them. But (...)
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  8. How Can There Be Reasoning to Action?John Schwenkler - forthcoming - Analytic Philosophy.
    In general we think of reasoning as a way of moving from some body of evidence to a belief that is drawn as a conclusion from it. But is it possible for reasoning to conclude in action, i.e., in a person’s intentionally doing one thing or another? In PRACTICAL SHAPE Jonathan Dancy answers 'Yes', on the grounds that "when an agent deliberates well and then acts accordingly, the action done is of the sort most favoured by the considerations rehearsed, taken (...)
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  9. Skill and Sensitivity to Reasons.Joshua Shepherd - forthcoming - Review of Philosophy and Psychology:1-13.
    In this paper I explore the relationship between skill and sensitivity to reasons for action. I want to know to what degree we can explain the fact that the skilled agent is very good at performing a cluster of actions within some domain in terms of the fact that the skilled agent has a refined sensitivity to the reasons for action common to the cluster. The picture is a little bit complex. While skill can be partially explained by sensitivity to (...)
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  10. An Intrapersonal, Intertemporal Solution to an Interpersonal Dilemma.Valerie Soon - forthcoming - Philosophical Studies:1-18.
    It is commonly accepted that what we ought to do collectively does not imply anything about what each of us ought to do individually. According to this line of reasoning, if cooperating will make no difference to an outcome, then you are not morally required to do it. And if cooperating will be personally costly to you as well, this is an even stronger reason to not do it. However, this reasoning results in a self-defeating, yet entirely predictable outcome. If (...)
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  11. The Tragedy of the Risk Averse.H. Orri Stefánsson - forthcoming - Erkenntnis:1-14.
    Those who are risk averse with respect to money, and thus turn down some gambles with positive monetary expectations, are nevertheless often willing to accept bundles involving multiple such gambles. Therefore, it might seem that such people should become more willing to accept a risky but favourable gamble if they put it in context with the collection of gambles that they predict they will be faced with in the future. However, it turns out that when a risk averse person adopts (...)
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  12. An Instrumentalist Unification of Zetetic and Epistemic Reasons.Asbjørn Steglich-Petersen - forthcoming - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy.
    Inquiry is an aim-directed activity, and as such governed by instrumental normativity. If you have reason to figure out a question, you have reason to take means to figuring it out. Beliefs are governed by epistemic normativity. On a certain pervasive understanding, this means that you are permitted – maybe required – to believe what you have sufficient evidence for. The norms of inquiry and epistemic norms both govern us as agents in pursuit of knowledge and understanding, and, on the (...)
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  13. Review of Practical Shape: A Theory of Practical Reasoning, by Jonathan Dancy. [REVIEW]Jonathan Way - forthcoming - Ethics.
  14. The Self-Effacing Functionality of Blame.Matthieu Queloz - 2021 - Philosophical Studies 178 (4):1361-1379.
    This paper puts forward an account of blame combining two ideas that are usually set up against each other: that blame performs an important function, and that blame is justified by the moral reasons making people blameworthy rather than by its functionality. The paper argues that blame could not have developed in a purely instrumental form, and that its functionality itself demands that its functionality be effaced in favour of non-instrumental reasons for blame—its functionality is self-effacing. This notion is sharpened (...)
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  15. Rational Powers in Action: Instrumental Rationality and Extended Agency.Sergio Tenenbaum - 2021 - Oxford University Press.
    Rational Powers in Action presents a conception of instrumental rationality as governing actions that are extended in time with indeterminate ends. Tenenbaum argues that previous philosophical theories in this area, in focusing on momentary snapshots of the mind of idealized agents, miss central aspects of human rationality.
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  16. The Conclusion of Practical Reasoning.John Brunero - 2020 - The Journal of Ethics 25 (1):13-37.
    According to the Aristotelian Thesis, the conclusion of practical reasoning is an action. Critics argue against it by pointing to cases in which some interference or inability prevents the production of action, yet in which that interference or inability doesn’t impugn the success of an agent’s reasoning. Some of those critics suggest instead that practical reasoning concludes in an intention, while others suggest it concludes in a belief with normative content, such as a belief about what one has conclusive, or (...)
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  17. Instrumental Rationality: The Normativity of Means-Ends Coherence.John Brunero - 2020 - Oxford: Oxford University Press.
    Rationality requires that we intend the means that we believe are necessary for achieving our ends. Instrumental Rationality explores the formulation and status of this requirement of means-ends coherence. In particular, it is concerned with understanding what means-ends coherence requires of us as believers and agents, and why.
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  18. The Sunk Cost "Fallacy" Is Not a Fallacy.Ryan Doody - 2020 - Ergo: An Open Access Journal of Philosophy 6:1153-1190.
    Business and Economic textbooks warn against committing the Sunk Cost Fallacy: you, rationally, shouldn't let unrecoverable costs influence your current decisions. In this paper, I argue that this isn't, in general, correct. Sometimes it's perfectly reasonable to wish to carry on with a project because of the resources you've already sunk into it. The reason? Given that we're social creatures, it's not unreasonable to care about wanting to act in such a way so that a plausible story can be told (...)
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  19. The Instrumental Rule.Jeremy David Fix - 2020 - Journal of the American Philosophical Association 6 (4):444-462.
    Properly understood, the instrumental rule says to take means that actually suffice for my end, not, as is nearly universally assumed, to intend means that I believe are necessary for my end. This alternative explains everything the standard interpretation can—and more, including grounding certain correctness conditions for exercises of our will unexplained by the standard interpretation.
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  20. Enkratic Rationality Is Instrumental Rationality.Wooram Lee - 2020 - Philosophical Perspectives 34 (1):164-183.
    It is widely agreed that there is a rational requirement, “Enkrasia”, which requires that you intend what you believe you ought to do. This paper argues that Enkrasia is not an independent requirement of practical rationality: it is a special case of the requirement to be instrumentally rational. I argue for this view of Enkrasia through an analysis of an all‐things‐considered belief about what you ought to do. Believing, all‐thing‐considered, that you ought to φ implies being settled on a set (...)
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  21. Instrumental Reasons for Belief: Elliptical Talk and Elusive Properties.Asbjørn Steglich-Petersen & Mattias Skipper - 2020 - In Sebastian Schmidt & Gerhard Ernst (eds.), The Ethics of Belief and Beyond. Understanding Mental Normativity. Abingdon: Routledge. pp. 109-125.
    Epistemic instrumentalists think that epistemic normativity is just a special kind of instrumental normativity. According to them, you have epistemic reason to believe a proposition insofar as doing so is conducive to certain epistemic goals or aims—say, to believe what is true and avoid believing what is false. Perhaps the most prominent challenge for instrumentalists in recent years has been to explain, or explain away, why one’s epistemic reasons often do not seem to depend on one’s aims. This challenge can (...)
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  22. Subjectivism, Instrumentalism, and Prudentialism About Reasons: On the Normativity of Instrumental Transmission.Arash Abizadeh - 2019 - European Journal of Philosophy 27 (2):387-402.
    According to a subjectivist theory, normative reasons are grounded in facts about our desires. According to an instrumentalist theory, reasons are grounded also in facts about the relevant means to desired objects. These are distinct theories. The widespread tendency to conflate the normativity of subjective and instrumentalist precepts obscures two facts. First, instrumentalist precepts incorporate a subjective element with an objective one. Second, combining these elements into a single theory of normative reasons requires explaining how and why they are to (...)
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  23. On Not Getting Out of Bed.Samuel Asarnow - 2019 - Philosophical Studies 176 (6):1639-1666.
    This morning I intended to get out of bed when my alarm went off. Hearing my alarm, I formed the intention to get up now. Yet, for a time, I remained in bed, irrationally lazy. It seems I irrationally failed to execute my intention. Such cases of execution failure pose a challenge for Mentalists about rationality, who believe that facts about rationality supervene on facts about the mind. For, this morning, my mind was in order; it was my action that (...)
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  24. Fittingness and Good Reasoning.John Brunero - 2019 - Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy 16 (2).
    Conor McHugh and Jonathan Way have defended a view of good reasoning according to which good reasoning is explained in terms of the preservation of fittingness. I argue that their Fittingness View is incorrect. Not all fittingness-preserving transitions in thought are instances of good reasoning.
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  25. If There Are No Diachronic Norms of Rationality, Why Does It Seem Like There Are?Ryan Doody - 2019 - Res Philosophica 96 (2):141-173.
    I offer an explanation for why certain sequences of decisions strike us as irrational while others do not. I argue that we have a standing desire to tell flattering yet plausible narratives about ourselves, and that cases of diachronic behavior that strike us as irrational are those in which you had the opportunity to hide something unflattering and failed to do so.
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  26. An Instrumentalist Account of How to Weigh Epistemic and Practical Reasons for Belief.Asbjørn Steglich-Petersen & Mattias Skipper - 2019 - Mind 129 (516):1071-1094.
    When one has both epistemic and practical reasons for or against some belief, how do these reasons combine into an all-things-considered reason for or against that belief? The question might seem to presuppose the existence of practical reasons for belief. But we can rid the question of this presupposition. Once we do, a highly general ‘Combinatorial Problem’ emerges. The problem has been thought to be intractable due to certain differences in the combinatorial properties of epistemic and practical reasons. Here we (...)
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  27. Trying Cognitivism: A Defence of the Strong Belief Thesis.Avery Archer - 2018 - Theoria 84 (2):140-156.
    According to the Strong Belief Thesis (SBT), intending to X entails the belief that one will X. John Brunero has attempted to impugn SBT by arguing that there are cases in which an agent intends to X but is unsure that she will X. Moreover, he claims that the standard reply to such putative counterexamples to SBT – namely, to claim that the unsure agent merely has an intention to try – comes at a high price. Specifically, it prevents SBT (...)
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  28. Review of Kirk Ludwig, From Individual to Plural Agency, Collective Action: Volume 1. [REVIEW]Olle Blomberg - 2018 - Philosophical Quarterly 68 (272):626-628.
  29. Rationality, Virtue and Higher‐Order Coherence.Jens Gillessen - 2018 - Dialectica 72 (3):411-436.
    Since it is hard to see how subjective rationality could be normative, a humbler, purely evaluative account of rationality’s importance has been suggested: rationality is a non-moral virtue, and rational action is good so far as it reveals that an agent ‘functions well’. This paper argues, however, that even this fallback position is threatened by ‘eccentric billionaire’ scenarios: sometimes, flouting purported coherence standards of rationality is maximally virtuous. In defense of the virtue account, I argue that a novel view of (...)
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  30. Do Intentions Set Up Rational Defaults? Commitments, Reasons, and the Diachronic Dimension of Rationality.Jens Gillessen - 2018 - Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 99 (1):29-64.
    Suppose that you do not do what you have previously decided to do. Are you to be charged with irrationality? A number of otherwise divergent theories of practical rationality hold that by default, you are; there are rational pressures, it is claimed, that favor the long-term stability and eventual execution of distal intentions. The article challenges this view by examining how these purported pressures can be spelled out. Is intention a normative commitment to act? Are intentions reasons for action – (...)
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  31. Praxeology, Imperatives, and Shifts of View.Benj Hellie - 2018 - In Rowland Stout (ed.), Process, action, and experience. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 185--209.
    Recent neo-Anscombean work in praxeology (aka ‘philosophy of practical reason’), salutarily, shifts focus from an alienated 'third-person' viewpoint on practical reason to an embedded 'first-person' view: for example, the 'naive rationalizations' of Michael Thompson, of form 'I am A-ing because I am B-ing', take up the agent's view, in the thick of action. Less salutary, in its premature abandonment of the first-person view, is an interpretation of these naive rationalizations as asserting explanatory links between facts about organically structured agentive processes (...)
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  32. Practical Reasoning.Antti Kauppinen - 2018 - In Daniel Star (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Reasons and Normativity. Oxford University Press.
    This chapter presents two contemporary pictures of practical reasoning. According to the Rule-Guidance Conception, roughly, practical reasoning is a rule-guided operation of acquiring (or retaining or giving up) intentions so as to meet synchronic requirements of rationality. According to the Reasons-Responsiveness Conception, practical reasoning is a process of responding to reasons we take ourselves to have, and its standards of correctness derive from what we objectively have reason to do, if things are as we suppose them to be. I argue (...)
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  33. Kant's Critique of Instrumental Reason.Markus Kohl - 2018 - Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 99 (3):489-516.
    Many commentators hold that in addition to the categorical imperative of morality, Kant also posits an objective law of non-moral practical rationality, 'the' Hypothetical Imperative. On this view, the appeal to the Hypothetical Imperative increases the dialectical options that Kantians have vis-a-vis Humean skepticism about the authority of reason, and it allows for a systematic explanation of the possibility of non-moral weakness of will. I argue that despite its appeal, this interpretation cannot be sustained: for Kant the only objective, universally (...)
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  34. A Pluralistic Account of Epistemic Rationality.Matthew Kopec - 2018 - Synthese 195 (8):3571-3596.
    In this essay, I aim to motivate and defend a pluralistic view of epistemic rationality. At the core of the view is the notion that epistemic rationality is essentially a species of practical rationality put in the service of various epistemic goals. I begin by sketching some closely related views that have appeared in the literature. I then present my preferred version of the view and sketch some of its benefits. Thomas Kelly has raised challenging objections to a part of (...)
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  35. Willing the End Means Willing the Means: An Overlooked Reading of Kant.Wooram Lee - 2018 - Ergo: An Open Access Journal of Philosophy 5.
    In his Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals, Kant famously claims that it is analytic that whoever wills the end also wills the indispensably necessary means to it that is within his control. The orthodox consensus has it that the analytic proposition expresses a normative principle of practical reason. In this paper, I argue that this consensus is mistaken. On my resolute reading of Kant, he is making a descriptive point about what it is to will an end, and not (...)
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  36. What is Good Reasoning?Conor McHugh & Jonathan Way - 2018 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research:153-174.
    What makes the difference between good and bad reasoning? In this paper we defend a novel account of good reasoning—both theoretical and practical—according to which it preserves fittingness or correctness: good reasoning is reasoning which is such as to take you from fitting attitudes to further fitting attitudes, other things equal. This account, we argue, is preferable to two others that feature in the recent literature. The first, which has been made prominent by John Broome, holds that the standards of (...)
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  37. Epistemic Instrumentalism and the Reason to Believe in Accord with the Evidence.Nathaniel Sharadin - 2018 - Synthese 195 (9):3791-3809.
    Epistemic instrumentalists face a puzzle. In brief, the puzzle is that if the reason there is to believe in accord with the evidence depends, as the instrumentalist says it does, on agents’ idiosyncratic interests, then there is no reason to expect that this reason is universal. Here, I identify and explain two strategies instrumentalists have used to try and solve this puzzle. I then argue that we should find these strategies wanting. Faced with the failure of these strategies, I articulate (...)
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  38. Epistemic Instrumentalism, Permissibility, and Reasons for Belief.Asbjørn Steglich-Petersen - 2018 - In Conor McHugh, Jonathan Way & Daniel Whiting (eds.), Normativity: Epistemic and Practical. Oxford University Press. pp. 260-280.
    Epistemic instrumentalists seek to understand the normativity of epistemic norms on the model practical instrumental norms governing the relation between aims and means. Non-instrumentalists often object that this commits instrumentalists to implausible epistemic assessments. I argue that this objection presupposes an implausibly strong interpretation of epistemic norms. Once we realize that epistemic norms should be understood in terms of permissibility rather than obligation, and that evidence only occasionally provide normative reasons for belief, an instrumentalist account becomes available that delivers the (...)
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  39. What Kind of Theory is the Humean Theory of Motivation?Caroline T. Arruda - 2017 - Ratio 30 (3):322-342.
    I consider an underappreciated problem for proponents of the Humean theory of motivation. Namely, it is unclear whether is it to be understood as a largely psychological or largely metaphysical theory. I show that the psychological interpretation of HTM will need to be modified in order to be a tenable view and, as it will turn out, the modifications required render it virtually philosophically empty. I then argue that the largely metaphysical interpretation is the only a plausible interpretation of HTM's (...)
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  40. Instrumental Reasoning in Nonhuman Animals.Elisabeth Camp & Eli Shupe - 2017 - In Kristin Andrews & Jake Beck (eds.), The Routledge Handbook of Philosophy of Animal Minds. London, UK: pp. 100-118.
  41. Practical Reason, Sympathy and Reactive Attitudes.Max Khan Hayward - 2017 - Noûs:51-75.
    This paper has three aims. First, I defend, in its most radical form, Hume's scepticism about practical reason, as it applies to purely self-regarding matters. It's not always irrational to discount the future, to be inconstant in one's preferences, to have incompatible desires, to not pursue the means to one's ends, or to fail to maximize one's own good. Second, I explain how our response to the “irrational” agent should be understood as an expression of frustrated sympathy, in Adam Smith's (...)
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  42. Repliken.Benjamin Kiesewetter - 2017 - Zeitschrift für Philosophische Forschung 71 (4):578-83.
    This a a reply to Gerhard Ernst's and Erasmus Mayr's critical comments on my book 'The Normativity of Rationality'.
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  43. Circularity, Naturalism, and Desire-Based Reasons.Attila Tanyi - 2017 - Res Philosophica 94 (4):451-470.
    In this paper, I propose a critique of the naturalist version of the Desire-Based Reasons Model. I first set the scene by spelling out the connection between naturalism and the Model. After this, I introduce Christine Korsgaard’s circularity argument against what she calls the instrumental principle. Since Korsgaard’s targets, officially, were non-naturalist advocates of the principle, I show why and how the circularity charge can be extended to cover the naturalist Model. Once this is done, I go on to investigate (...)
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  44. Reasons for Reliance.Facundo M. Alonso - 2016 - Ethics 126 (2):311-338.
    Philosophers have in general offered only a partial view of the normative grounds of reliance. Some maintain that either one of evidence or of pragmatic considerations has a normative bearing on reliance, but are silent about whether the other kind of consideration has such a bearing on it as well. Others assert that both kinds of considerations have a normative bearing on reliance, but sidestep the question of what their relative normative bearing is. My aim in this article is to (...)
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  45. On What Is in Front of Your Nose.Anton Ford - 2016 - Philosophical Topics 44 (1):141-161.
    The conclusion of practical reasoning is commonly said to rest upon a diverse pair of representations—a “major” and a “minor” premise—the first of which concerns the end and the second, the means. Modern and contemporary philosophers writing on action and practical reasoning tend to portray the minor premise as a “means-end belief”—a belief about, as Michael Smith puts it, “the ways in which one thing leads to another,” or, as John McDowell puts it, “what can be relied on to bring (...)
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  46. Knowledge and Rational Action: The Economization of Environment, and After.Dominique Pestre - 2016 - In Susan Neiman, Peter Galison & Wendy Doniger (eds.), What Reason Promises: Essays on Reason, Nature and History. De Gruyter. pp. 93-99.
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  47. Instrumentalism About Practical Reason: Not by Default.Thomas Schmidt - 2016 - Philosophical Explorations 19 (1):17-27.
    Instrumentalism is the view that all requirements of practical reason can be derived from the instrumental principle, that is, from the claim that one ought to take the suitable means to one's ends. Rationalists, by contrast, hold that there are requirements of practical reason that concern the normative acceptability of ends. To the extent that rationalists put forward these requirements in addition to the instrumental principle, rationalism might seem to go beyond instrumentalism in its normative commitments. This is why it (...)
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  48. The Real Puzzle of the Self-Torturer: Uncovering a New Dimension of Instrumental Rationality.Chrisoula Andreou - 2015 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy 45 (5-6):562-575.
    The puzzle of the self-torturer raises intriguing questions concerning rationality, cyclic preferences, and resoluteness. Interestingly, what makes the case puzzling has not been clearly pinpointed. The puzzle, it seems, is that a series of rational choices foreseeably leads the self-torturer to an option that serves his preferences worse than the one with which he started. But this is a very misleading way of casting the puzzle. I pinpoint the real puzzle of the self-torturer and, in the process, reveal a neglected (...)
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  49. How to Rationally Approach Life's Transformative Experiences.Marcus Arvan - 2015 - Philosophical Psychology 28 (8):1199-1218.
    In a widely discussed forthcoming article, “What you can't expect when you're expecting,” L. A. Paul challenges culturally and philosophically traditional views about how to rationally make major life-decisions, most specifically the decision of whether to have children. The present paper argues that because major life-decisions are transformative, the only rational way to approach them is to become resilient people: people who do not “over-plan” their lives or expect their lives to play out “according to plan”—people who understand that beyond (...)
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  50. A Critique of Benchmark Theory.Robert Bassett - 2015 - Synthese 192 (1):241-267.
    Benchmark theory , introduced by Ralph Wedgwood, departs from decision theories of pure expectation maximization like evidential decision theory and causal decision theory and instead ranks actions according to the desirability of an outcome they produce in some state of affairs compared to a standard—a benchmark—for that state of affairs. Wedgwood motivates BT through what he terms Gandalf’s principle, that the merits of an action in a given state should be evaluated relative only to the performances of other actions in (...)
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