Philosophy and cognitive sciences
- 2023-02-09 - 2023-05-04
- Thursdays, 10:30 - 13:30
- Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona, room TBA
Theories of rationality should ideally provide us with tools for a number of important tasks: We want to avoid irrationality or aim at justifying our beliefs and decisions by certain standards. This is important for many tasks. in ordinary life, such as judgments and decisions of individual and public health, wealth, and happiness. We want to be clear about whether the reasons for our beliefs and actions are valid or reasonable. Furthermore, we often have to communicate with others about our beliefs and decisions, such as in scientific, ethical, or political contexts. All this requires conceptions or even theories of reason or rationality.
But what do we mean when we say that something, or someone, is rational (or irrational)? What are the normative standards of rationality? How should a theory of rationality be built? What are its presuppositions, its potentials and limits? What role does science play in it? In the answers to such questions, different thinkers have introduced a bewildering variety of distinctions - such as theoretical versus practical, instrumental versus non-instrumental, formal versus content-based, or optimizing versus "bounded" concepts of rationality. The course presents a selection of classical and current debates in which such understandings of rationality or reason emerge.
Week 1: Course overview. Assignment of main discussant slots.
Black, M. (1986). Ambiguities of rationality. In: N. Garver & P. Hare (eds.), Naturalism and rationality (pp. 25-40). Buffalo, NY: Prometheus.
Week 2: Rationality in psychology: The “heuristics and biases” approach
Tversky, A. & Kahneman, D. (1974). Judgment under uncertainty: Heuristics and biases. Science, 185, 1124-1131.
Week 3: Are we irrational? Philosophical reactions to "heuristics and biases"
Cohen, L.J. (1981). Can human irrationality be experimentally demonstrated? Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 4, 317-331 (comments and responses, 331-59).
Stich, S. (1985). Could man be an irrational animal? Some notes on the epistemology of rationality. Synthese, 64, 115-135.
Week 4: Psychological debates about "heuristics and biases"
Gigerenzer, G. (1991). How to make cognitive illusions disappear: Beyond heuristics and biases. European Review of Social Psychology, 2, 83-115.
Kahneman, D. & Tversky, A. (1996). On the reality of cognitive illusions. Psychological Review, 103, 582-591.
Gigerenzer, G. (1996). On narrow norms and vague heuristics: A rebuttal to Kahneman and Tversky. Psychological Review, 103, 592-596.
Week 5: Evolution and rationality I: Philosophical arguments
Sober, E. (1981). The evolution of rationality. Synthese, 46, 95-120.
Stein, E. (1996). Evolution. In: Stein, E. Without good reason: The rationality debate in philosophy and cognitive science. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 173- 213.
Week 6: Evolution and rationality II: Evolutionary psychology
Fodor, J. (2000). Why we are so good at catching cheaters. Cognition, 75, 29-32.
Beaman, C.P. (2002). Why we are good at detecting cheaters? A reply to Fodor. Cognition, 83, 215-220 (Discussion, 221).
Cosmides, L., Tooby, J., Fiddick, L. and Bryant, G. A. (2005). Detecting cheaters. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 9, 505-506.
Atran, S. (2001). A cheater-detection module? Dubious interpretations of the Wason selection task and logic. Evolution and Cognition, 7, 187-192.
Week 7: Evolution and rationality III: The evolutionary function or reasoning
Mercier, H. (2016). The Argumentative Theory: Predictions and Empirical Evidence. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 20, 689-700.
Mercier, H. & Sperber, D. (2017). The enigma of reason. Cambridge/MA: Harvard UP, Introduction & ch. 7-8.
Week 8: Are psychologists irrational? Philosophical reactions to the "rationality wars" I
Samuels, R., Stich, S. & Bishop, M., 2002. Ending the rationality wars: How to make disputes about human rationality disappear. In: R. Elio (ed.), Common sense, reasoning and rationality. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 236-268.
Week 9: Are psychologists irrational? Philosophical reactions to the "rationality wars" II
Goldman, A. (2008). Human rationality: Epistemological and psychological perspectives. In: A. Beckermann & S. Walter (eds.), Philosophie: Grundlagen und Anwendungen/Philosophy: Foundations and Applications (pp. 230-247). Paderborn: Mentis.
Week 10: Bounded rationality
Gigerenzer, G. (2008). Bounded and rational. In: A. Beckermann & Sven Walter (eds.), Philosophie: Grundlagen und Anwendungen/Philosophy: Foundations and Applications (pp. 203-228). Paderborn: Mentis.
Week 11: Applications: Rationality in political psychology and economics
Kanwisher, N. (1989). Cognitive heuristics and American security policy. Journal of Conflict Resolution, 33, 652-675.
McDermott, R. (2001). The psychological ideas of Amos Tversky and their relevance for political science. Journal of Theoretical Politics, 13, 5-33.
Grüne-Yanoff, T. & Hertwig, R. (2016). Nudge versus boost: How coherent are policyand theory? Minds & Machines, 26, 149–183.
The module is structured into 10 sessions of 3.5 hours each. The sessions alternate between lecturing and seminar discussion of basic course readings. In the tutorials, the professor will supervise the preparation of a written paper of 10-15 pages related to some topic treated in the module.
Both class participation, quality of presentations (50%) and written essay (50%) will contribute to the final mark.