Rational Requirements and the Primacy of Pressure

Mind 129 (516):1033-1070 (2020)
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There are at least two threads in our thought and talk about rationality, both practical and theoretical. In one sense, to be rational is to respond correctly to the reasons one has. Call this substantive rationality. In another sense, to be rational is to be coherent, or to have the right structural relations hold between one’s mental states, independently of whether those attitudes are justified. Call this structural rationality. According to the standard view, structural rationality is associated with a distinctive set of requirements that mandate or prohibit certain combinations of attitudes, and it’s in virtue of violating these requirements that incoherent agents are irrational. I think the standard view is mistaken. The goal of this paper is to explain why, and to motivate an alternative account: rather than corresponding to a set of law-like requirements, structural rationality should be seen as corresponding to a distinctive kind of pro tanto rational pressure—i.e. something that comes in degrees, having both magnitude and direction. Something similar is standardly assumed to be true of substantive rationality. On the resulting picture, each dimension of rational evaluation is associated with a distinct kind of rational pressure—substantive rationality with (what I call) justificatory pressure and structural rationality with attitudinal pressure. The former is generated by one’s reasons while the latter is generated by one’s attitudes. Requirements turn out to be at best a footnote in the theory of rationality.

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Daniel Fogal
New York University

Citations of this work

Which Reasons? Which Rationality?Daniel Fogal & Alex Worsnip - 2021 - Ergo: An Open Access Journal of Philosophy 8.
What is (In)coherence?Alex Worsnip - 2018 - Oxford Studies in Metaethics 13:184-206.
Structural Rationality and the Property of Coherence.Marc-Kevin Daoust - 2023 - Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 104 (1):170-194.
Higher-Order Evidence.Daniel Whiting - 2021 - Analysis 80 (4):789-807.

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References found in this work

The Normativity of Rationality.Benjamin Kiesewetter - 2017 - Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Moral reasons.Jonathan Dancy - 1993 - Cambridge, Mass.: Blackwell.
Justifications, Excuses, and Sceptical Scenarios.Timothy Williamson - forthcoming - In Fabian Dorsch & Julien Dutant (eds.), The New Evil Demon. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Why be rational.Niko Kolodny - 2005 - Mind 114 (455):509-563.
Normative requirements.John Broome - 1999 - Ratio 12 (4):398–419.

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