On three alleged theories of rational behavior

Utilitas 21 (4):506-520 (2009)
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Abstract

What behavior is rational? It’s rational to act ethically, some think. Others endorse instrumentalism — it is rational to pursue one’s goals. Still others say that acting rationally always involves promoting one’s self-interest. Many philosophers have given each of these answers. But these answers don’t really conflict; they aren’t vying to describe some shared concept or to solve some mutually acknowledged problem. In so far as this is debated, it is a pseudo-debate. The different uses of ‘rational action’ differ merely in meaning. I shall defend the following claims: ‘rational behavior’ is used in ethical, prudential, and instrumental ways (section 1); these uses of ‘rational behavior’ are distinct (section 2); they do not represent competing theories of rational behavior (section 3); we should stop using ‘rational behavior’ ethically and prudentially, but we may continue its instrumental use (section 4).

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Stuart Rachels
University of Alabama

Citations of this work

Nothing Matters in Survival.Torin Alter & Stuart Rachels - 2005 - The Journal of Ethics 9 (3-4):311-330.
Utilidade: um exercício conceptual.Edmundo Balsemão Pires - 2012 - Revista Filosófica de Coimbra 21 (42):417-478.

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References found in this work

Reasons and Persons.Joseph Margolis - 1986 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 47 (2):311-327.
Internal and External Reasons.Bernard Williams - 1979 - In Ross Harrison (ed.), Rational Action. Cambridge University Press. pp. 101-113.
The Foundations of Statistics.Leonard J. Savage - 1956 - Philosophy of Science 23 (2):166-166.
Aspects of Scientific Explanation.Asa Kasher - 1965 - Journal of Symbolic Logic 37 (4):747-749.

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