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

By Edward Stein | Go to book overview

7
The Standard Picture

IN the last few chapters, I have been considering arguments for the view that humans are rational. These arguments tried to support the rationality thesis by providing reasons for interpreting the reasoning experiments so that they are only about performance errors. Interpreted in this fashion, these experiments lend no support to the irrationality thesis. None of the arguments presented in the previous chapters established that this interpretation of the reasoning experiments is the right one. As a result, in so far as the reasoning experiments suggest that humans systematically violate the normative principles of reasoning, the irrationality thesis seems in good shape.

There is another strategy that can be used against the irrationality thesis. Rather than argue that the reasoning experiments do not provide evidence about human reasoning competence, friends of the rationality thesis can argue that the standard picture of rationality is mistaken. According to the standard picture of rationality, there are normative principles of reasoning and these principles are (at least, for the most part) what we think they are, that is, they stem from principles of logic, probability, and the like. If the standard picture of rationality is wrong and the normative principles of reasoning do not match principles of logic, probability, and the like but, rather, match the principles embodied in our reasoning competence, then the rationality thesis would be true. Or, perhaps an argument for the rationality thesis could be developed if there are no normative principles of reasoning that apply to everyone. In any event, if they are willing to sacrifice the standard picture of rationality, friends of the rationality thesis could be vindicated.

There are, then, two general strategies for arguing against the irrationality thesis in the face of the evidence of the reasoning experiments. First, one might try to show that the reasoning experiments do not in fact support the irrationality thesis, that is, that they do not show that human reasoning competence diverges from the normative principles of reasoning. Second, one might try to undermine the standard picture of rationality, that is, the view that there are normative principles of reasoning and that these principles are based on rules of logic, probability,

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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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