The Theory of Epistemic Rationality

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Instead, Weber suggests that a ground or motive can be given—for religious or affect reasons, for example—that may meet the criterion of explanation or justification even if it is not an explanation that fits the Zweckrational orientation of means and ends. The opposite is therefore also true: some means-ends explanations will not satisfy those whose grounds for action are Wertrational. Weber's constructions of rationality have been critiqued both from a Habermasian perspective as devoid of social context and under-theorised in terms of social power [4] and also from a feminist perspective Eagleton, whereby Weber's rationality constructs are viewed as imbued with masculine values and oriented toward the maintenance of male power.

In the psychology of reasoning , psychologists and cognitive scientists have defended different positions on human rationality. Byrne among others is that humans are rational in principle but they err in practice, that is, humans have the competence to be rational but their performance is limited by various factors. This has led to disputes in psychology over whether researchers should only use standard rules of logic, probability theory and statistics, or rational choice theory as norms of good reasoning. Opponents of this view, such as Gerd Gigerenzer , favor a conception of bounded rationality , especially for tasks under high uncertainty.

Richard Brandt proposed a "reforming definition" of rationality, arguing someone is rational if their notions survive a form of cognitive-psychotherapy. Abulof argues that rationality has become an "essentially contested concept," as its "proper use… inevitably involves endless disputes. It is believed by some philosophers notably A. Grayling that a good rationale must be independent of emotions, personal feelings or any kind of instincts.

Any process of evaluation or analysis, that may be called rational, is expected to be highly objective, logical and "mechanical".

The Theory of Epistemic Rationality

If these minimum requirements are not satisfied i. Modern cognitive science and neuroscience show that studying the role of emotion in mental function including topics ranging from flashes of scientific insight to making future plans , that no human has ever satisfied this criterion, except perhaps a person with no affective feelings, for example an individual with a massively damaged amygdala or severe psychopathy.

Thus, such an idealized form of rationality is best exemplified by computers, and not people.

Rationalism Vs Empiricism

However, scholars may productively appeal to the idealization as a point of reference. Kant had distinguished theoretical from practical reason. The distinction is also described as that between epistemic rationality, the attempt to form beliefs in an unbiased manner, and instrumental rationality. Theoretical rationality has a formal component that reduces to logical consistency and a material component that reduces to empirical support, relying on our inborn mechanisms of signal detection and interpretation. Practical rationality is the strategy for living one's best possible life, achieving your most important goals and your own preferences in as far as possible.

As the study of arguments that are correct in virtue of their form, logic is of fundamental importance in the study of rationality. The study of rationality in logic is more concerned with epistemic rationality, that is, attaining beliefs in a rational manner, than instrumental rationality. Rationality plays a key role in economics and there are several strands to this.

Secondly, there is an axiomatic concept that rationality is a matter of being logically consistent within your preferences and beliefs. Thirdly, people have focused on accuracy of beliefs and full use of information—in this view a person who is not rational has beliefs that don't fully use the information they have. Debates within economic sociology also arise as to whether or not people or organizations are "really" rational, as well as whether it makes sense to model them as such in formal models.

Some have argued that a kind of bounded rationality makes more sense for such models.


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Others think that any kind of rationality along the lines of rational choice theory is a useless concept for understanding human behavior; the term homo economicus economic man: the imaginary man being assumed in economic models who is logically consistent but amoral was coined largely in honor of this view.

Behavioral economics aims to account for economic actors as they actually are, allowing for psychological biases, rather than assuming idealized instrumental rationality. Within artificial intelligence , a rational agent is typically one that maximizes its expected utility , given its current knowledge. Utility is the usefulness of the consequences of its actions.

Google Scholar. Hawthorne, Knowledge and lotteries. Oxford: Clarendon Press Hieronymi, The Wrong Kind of Reason.

The Theory of Epistemic Rationality

The Journal of Philosophy Google Scholar. Kelly, Epistemic rationality as instrumental rationality: A critique. Lewis, D. Elusive knowledge. Australasian Journal of Philosophy 74; repr. Percival, Epistemic consequentialism I. In: D. Moyal-Sharrock and W.

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