Without Good Reason: The Rationality Debate in Philosophy and Cognitive Science

By Edward Stein | Go to book overview

I Introduction
SUPPOSE a friend of yours is talking about his new friend Linda. He tells you that Linda is single, 31, bright, outspoken, and that, as a college student, she majored in philosophy and was concerned with issues of social justice. Given all your friend has told you about her, rank the following statements in order of the likelihood that they will be true of Linda:
(1) Linda is active in the feminist movement.
(2) Linda is a bank teller.
(3) Linda is a bank teller and is active in the feminist movement.

If you are like most people, you ranked (3) as being more probable than (2). This, however, is a mistake: (3) cannot be more probable than (2), because (2) is true whenever (3) is. Although this fact seems straightforward once I have pointed it out, people seem to avoid it systematically.1 In so doing, they are making a mistake in reasoning. According to experiments done over the past few decades, humans make similarly significant errors in various realms of reasoning: logical reasoning, probabilistic reasoning, similarity judgements, and risk-assessment to name a few.2 Together these experiments, which I will call reasoning experiments, are taken to show that humans are irrational.

The observation that humans are irrational is perhaps more commonplace than that humans have two legs, even though the latter seems more obvious. Even in the face of evidence from experiments like the conjunction experiment sketched above, many want to resist the thesis that humans are irrational. Some philosophers and psychologists have developed creative and appealing arguments that these experiments are mistaken or misinterpreted because humans must be rational. Any one

____________________
1
This example is adapted from Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman, "Extensional versus Intuitive Reasoning: The Conjunction Fallacy in Probability Judgment", Psychological Review, 90 ( Oct. 1983), 293-315. For further discussion of this experiment, see Ch. 3, Sect. 2 below.
2
A representative cross-section of the reasoning experiments can be found in Daniel Kahneman et al. (eds.), Judgment under Uncertainty ( Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982).

-1-

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Without Good Reason: The Rationality Debate in Philosophy and Cognitive Science
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Acknowledgements vii
  • Contents ix
  • I- Introduction 1
  • 2- Competence 37
  • 3- Psychological Evidence 79
  • 4- Charity 111
  • 5- Reflective Equilibrium 137
  • 6- Evolution 172
  • 7- The Standard Picture 214
  • 8- Conclusion 266
  • Bibliography 279
  • Index 291
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