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.
"Rationality" refers to the idea that our beliefs and decisions can be evaluated according to normative standards of reasoning; but it is also a concept used in the empirical sciences, such as sociology, psychology, or economics, for explaining how we judge and decide. We will look at its explanatory uses in sociology and psychology, but also at its normative problems at the interfaces between the sciences and philosophy. Which norms do and should guide our inferences? How are the norms related to the actual ways in which human beings reason? And how responsible do we have to be for our beliefs to be rational? To answer such questions, we will look at debates in philosophy and the sciences over human rationality. This course has thus two interrelated aims: First, it provides exercises in reasoning and rationality; second, it is a philosophical study of controversies in the empirical sciences of rationality.
Botterill, G. & Carruthers. P. (1999). The philosophy of psychology (pp. 105-130, "Reasoning and irrationality"). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Session 1. Rationality in psychology: Heuristics and biases
Tversky, A. & Kahneman, D. (1974). Judgment under uncertainty: Heuristics and biases. Science, 185, 1124-1131.
Session 2. 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.
Session 3. 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.
Session 4. Evolution and rationality I
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.
Session 5. Evolution and rationality II
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.
Session 6. Evolution and rationality III
Mercier, H. & Heintz, C. (2014). Scientists' argumentative reasoning. Topoi, 33, 513-524.
Mercier, H. (2016). The Argumentative Theory: Predictions and Empirical Evidence. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 20, 689-700.
Session 7. 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.
Session 8. 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.
Session 9. 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.
Session 10. How responsible should we be about beliefs and reasoning?
Bishop, M. (2000). In praise of epistemic irresponsibility: How lazy and ignorant can you be? Synthese, 122, 179-208.
Hieronymi, P. (2008). Responsibility for believing. Synthese, 161, 357-373.