Agents are entities that act upon the world. Rational agents are those that do so in an intelligent fashion. What is essential to such an agent is the ability to select and perform actions. Actions are selected by planning, and performing such actions is a matter of plan execution. So the essence of a rational agent is the ability to make and execute plans. This constitutes practical cognition. In order to perform its principal function of practical cognition, a rational agent must also be able to acquire the knowledge of the world that is required for making and executing plans. This is done by epistemic cognition. Rational agents embedded in a realistically complicated world (e.g., human beings) may devote more time to epistemic cognition than to practical cognition, but even for such agents, epistemic cognition is in an important sense subservient to practical cognition.
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