Reasoning under Scarcity

Australasian Journal of Philosophy 95 (3):543-559 (2017)
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Abstract

Practical deliberation consists in thinking about what to do. Such deliberation is deemed rational when it conforms to certain normative requirements. What is often ignored is the role that an agent's context can play in so-called ‘failures’ of rationality. In this paper, I use recent cognitive science research investigating the effects of resource-scarcity on decision-making and cognitive function to argue that context plays an important role in determining which norms should structure an agent's deliberation. This evidence undermines the view that the norms of ‘ideal’ rationality are necessary and universal requirements on deliberation. They are a solution to the problems faced by cognitively limited agents in a context of moderate scarcity. In a context of severe scarcity, the problems faced by cognitively limited agents are different and require deliberation structured by different norms. Agents reason rationally when they use the norms best suited to their context and cognitive capacities.

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Jennifer M. Morton
University of Pennsylvania

Citations of this work

Grit.Sarah Paul & Jennifer Morton - 2018 - Ethics 129 (2):175-203.
The Accuracy-Coherence Tradeoff in Cognition.David Thorstad - forthcoming - British Journal for Philosophy of Science.

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References found in this work

The Sources of Normativity.Christine M. Korsgaard - 1996 - Cambridge University Press.
Why Be Rational.Niko Kolodny - 2005 - Mind 114 (455):509-563.

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