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1 Oxford Scholarship Online Abstracts and Keywords ISBN Title The Value of Rationality Author(s) Ralph Wedgwood Book abstract Book keywords Rationality is a central concept for epistemology, ethics, and the study of practical reason. But what sort of concept is it? It is argued here that contrary to objections that have recently been raised rationality is a normative concept. In general, normative concepts cannot be explained in terms of the concepts expressed by reasons or ought. Instead, normative concepts are best understood in terms of values. Thus, for a mental state or a process of reasoning to be rational is for it to be in a certain way good. Specifically, rationality is a virtue, while irrationality is a vice. What rationality requires of you at a time is whatever is necessary for your thinking at that time to be as rational as possible; this makes rationally required equivalent to a kind of ought. Moreover, rationality is an internalist normative concept: what it is rational for you to think at a time depends purely on what is in your mind at that time. Nonetheless, rationality has an external goal namely, getting things right in your thinking, or thinking correctly. The connection between rationality and correctness is probabilistic: if your thinking is irrational, that is bad news about your thinking s degree of correctness; and the more irrational your thinking is, the worse the news is about your thinking s degree of correctness. This account of the concept of rationality indicates how we should set about giving a substantive theory of what it is for beliefs and choices to be rational. Rationality, Normativity, Reasons, Value, Virtue, Internalism, Probability

2 Chapter number 0 Chapter title Introduction This chapter introduces the book s central themes. Arguments are offered to support the assumption that there is a single concept of rationality, which applies univocally to mental states (like beliefs and intentions) and processes of reasoning (like choices and belief revisions), and plays a central role in epistemology, ethics, and the study of practical reason. It will be widely believed that rationality is a normative concept: to think rationally is in a sense to think properly, or as one should think. The goal of the book is to defend this belief, and to explain how rationality differs from other normative concepts. Although normative language is not the main topic, reflections on language will be methodologically important, to ensure that we are not misled by our linguistic intuitions. Rationality, Normativity, Epistemology, Practical reason, Philosophical methodology Chapter number 1 Chapter title Is Rationality Normative? In its original meaning, the word rational referred to the faculty of reason the capacity for reasoning. It is undeniable that the word later came also to express a normative concept the concept of the proper use of this faculty. Does it express a normative concept when it is used in formal theories of rational belief or rational choice? Reasons are given for concluding that it does express a normative concept in these contexts. But this conclusion seems to imply that we ought always to think rationally. Four objections can be raised. (1) What about cases where thinking rationally has disastrous consequences? (2) What about cases where we have rational false beliefs about what we ought to do? (3) Ought implies can but is it true that we can always think rationally? (4) Rationality requires nothing more than coherence but why does coherence matter? Rationality, Normativity, Strike of the demon, Ewing s problem, Ought implies can, Coherence

3 Chapter number 2 Chapter title The Beginnings of an Answer This chapter answers the first two of the four objections from the end of the previous chapter. (1) When thinking rationally has disastrous consequences, in one sense (reflecting the wrong kind of reasons ) you ought not to think rationally, but in another sense (reflecting the right kind of reasons ) you ought to think rationally. This corresponds to the difference, not between state-given and object-given reasons, but between the norms that are, and those that are not, constitutive of the mental states to which they apply. (2) If it is really possible to have rational false beliefs about what one ought to do, the sense of ought featuring in the content of this belief must be different from the sense in which one ought never to act contrary to one s beliefs about what one ought to do. The former is an objective ought while the latter is a more subjective ought. Wrong kind of reasons, State-given reasons, Constitutivism, Akrasia, Objective / subjective ought Chapter number 3 Chapter title Rationally Ought Implies Can The principle that ought implies can is defended: it follows from the classical semantics for ought, and the objections to it can be answered. If the ought is a non-trivial agential ought, the agent must be also able act or think otherwise than as she ought. Such a non-trivial ought implies a twoway power (the agent can act or think as she ought, and also act or think otherwise). This kind of two-way power is explained. It need not involving acting or thinking voluntarily or at will ; but it must involve the agent s having appropriate opportunities for exercising her capacities. It is suggested that opportunities can be reduced to chances, and capacities to dispositions, of appropriate kinds. Prima facie, this account is compatible with the idea that we are subject to non-trivial rational requirements, each of which entails a corresponding non-trivial agential ought. Ought implies can, ability, two-way power, doxastic voluntarism, opportunity, capacity, chance, disposition

4 Chapter number 4 Chapter title The Pitfalls of Reasons Many philosophers working on normative issues follow the "Reasons First" program. According to this program, the concept of a normative reason for an action or an attitude is the most fundamental normative concept, and all other normative and evaluative concepts can be defined in terms of this fundamental concept. This paper criticizes the foundational assumptions of this program. In fact, there are many different concepts that can be expressed by the term 'reason' in English. The best explanation of the data relating to these concepts is that they can all be defined in terms of explanatory concepts and other normative or evaluative notions: for example, in one sense, a reason for you to go is a fact that helps to explain why you ought to go, or why it is good for you to go. This implies that none of the concepts expressed by reason is fundamental. Normative reasons, Motivating reasons, Normative concepts, Normative language, Context-sensitivity Chapter number 5 Chapter title Objective and Subjective Ought This chapter offers an account of the truth conditions of sentences involving terms like ought. These truth conditions involve a function from worlds of evaluation to domains of worlds, and an ordering of the worlds in such domains. Every such ordering arises from a probability function and a value function since it ranks worlds according to the expected value of certain propositions that are true at those worlds. With the objective ought, the probability function is the omniscient function, which assigns 1 to all truths and 0 to all falsehoods; with the subjective ought, the probability function captures the uncertainty of the relevant agent. The relevance of this account for understanding conditionals is explored, and this account is defended against objections. For present purposes, the crucial point is that any normative use of ought is normative because of the value that is semantically involved. The fundamental normative concepts are evaluative. Deontic modals, semantics, possible worlds, value, expected value, deontic logic, objective ought, subjective ought

5 Chapter number 6 Chapter title Rationality as a Virtue A concept that can be expressed by the term rationality plays a central role in both epistemology and ethics especially in formal epistemology and decision theory. It is argued here that when the term is used in this way, it expresses the concept of a kind of virtue, that has the central features that are ascribed to virtues by Plato and Aristotle, among others. Like other virtues, rationality comes in degrees. Just as Aristotle distinguished just acts from acts that manifest the virtue of justice, we can distinguish the abstract rationality from the manifestation of rational dispositions; this is the best account of the distinction between propositional and doxastic justification. This approach also helps us to understand the relations between rationality and rational requirements, and to answer further objections to the thesis that rationality is a normative concept that are based on the principle that ought implies can. Rationality, virtue, propositional justification, doxastic justification, rational requirements, ought implies can Chapter number 7 Chapter title Internalism Re-explained According to internalism, what it is rational for me to think at a given time depends purely on the internal mental states and events that are present in my mind at that time. Intuitively, internalism is compelling. But should we trust the intuition? What is the distinction between internal and external here? Don t parallel intuitions establish controversial doctrines in the philosophy of mind, like the existence of narrow content? Why would this intuition be true? This chapter answers these questions. Internalism is true because we need to have norms that we can follow directly (not by reasoning about those norms, or by any more complex process of reasoning at all); and the only norms that we can follow directly in this sense at a given time are ones that supervene on the internal mental states and events that are present in our minds at (or shortly before) the time. Internalism, rationality, narrow content, disjunctivism, argument from illusion, guidance by norms

6 Chapter number 8 Chapter title Why Does Rationality Matter? Internalism implies that rationality requires nothing more than what in the broadest sense counts as coherence. The earlier chapters of this book argue that rationality is in a strong sense normative. But why does coherence matter? The interpretation of this question is clarified. An answer to the question would involve a general characterization of rationality that makes it intuitively less puzzling why rationality is in this strong sense normative. Various approaches to this question are explored: a deflationary approach, the appeal to Dutch book theorems, the idea that rationality is constitutive of the nature of mental states. It is argued that none of these approaches solves the problem. An adequate solution will have to appeal to some value that depends partly on how things are in the external world in effect, an external goal and some normatively significant connection between internal rationality and this external goal. Rationality, internalism, coherence, normativity, Dutch book arguments, constitutivism Chapter number 9 Chapter title The Aim of Rationality: Correctness It is proposed that rationality has an external goal thinking as correctly as possible. (For example, perhaps believing as correctly as possible is being maximally confident of the truth, and choosing as correctly as possible is choosing something feasible and optimally choiceworthy.) If your thinking is irrational, that is bad news about your thinking s degree of correctness; the more irrational your thinking is, the worse the news is about your thinking s degree of correctness. This idea is interpreted in in probabilistic terms. There is a probability function, fixed by the mental states and events present in your mind, such that the degree to which your thinking is good news about correctness is determined by how your thinking compares to alternative ways of thinking in terms of its expected degree of correctness according to that probability function. This proposal can explain the normativity of the requirements of rational coherence. Rationality, aim of belief, news value, probabilism, expected value, normativity, coherence

7 Chapter number 10 Chapter title Conclusion: Looking Ahead It is explained how the conception of rationality proposed earlier in this book can set the agenda for the study of rational belief and rational choice. Part of the task will be to investigate the kind of rational probability that was introduced in the previous chapter; the other part will be to study the conditions under which each kind of mental state counts as correct. There are reasons for thinking that the relevant notion of correctness must be such that in the case of belief, a correct belief is a belief in a true proposition, and in the case of choice, it is akratic to choose something if one is fully confident that it is not correct to choose it. It is explained what light this approach could shed on the traditional issues about rational belief and rational choice. Rational belief, rational choice, probability, correctness, epistemology, practical reason

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