Research Group in Analytic Philosophy

Self-control, framing, and rationality

    José Luis Bermúdez (Texas A&M University)

Date: 18 September 2018

Time: 15:00

Place: Seminari de Filosofia UB


Being influenced by how outcomes are framed is widely held to be a paradigm of irrationality. Yet, experimental and theoretical discussions of framing have ignored the most interesting situations in which framing occurs. These are when an agent or decision-maker consciously and simultaneously considers a single outcome or scenario under two different frames and evaluates it differently in each frame. From the perspective of standard theories of rational decision-making and rational choice, such clashes of frames are not supposed to happen – and if they do occur they are paradigms of irrationality. The standard view, I claim, gets things almost completely wrongThere is nothing intrinsically irrational about seeing the world in conflicting frames. In fact, actively engaging competing frames can be a powerful force for rationally engaging with problems that classical theories of rationality are unable to tackle. This paper applies this basic idea to self-control. Clashes between temptation and self-control can be modeled as clashes of frames and, I argue, successful self-control can often be a matter of how one frames oneself and one’s goals. Agents exercising self-control can behave perfectly rationally, despite (and in fact because) they are consciously and simultaneously considering a single outcome or scenario under two different frames and evaluating it differently in each frame.