Rationality and decision

Rationality and decision

Autors: Florin Popa

Year of appearance: 2011

ISBN: 978-606-505-400-4

15,50 lei In stock: YES
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The book explores different ways of understanding the rationality of decision and their theoretical assumptions. In doing so, we distinguish between a criterial level (the actual rules applied by decision-makers) and a regulative level (the background assumptions, understood as conditions of possibility for rational decision-making in general).

This analysis shows the prevalence of a formal and instrumental understanding of rationality, which tends to ignore the context of decision and does not attempt to assess the aims, values or norms applied by the decision-maker. A central (albeit not always explicit) assumption of this approach is that the rationality of decisions can in principle be evaluated on the basis of formal criteria that can be applied independently of contextual variables (although it is recognised that this may be difficult in practice). This approach is an important source of skepticism and of different versions of relativism. It is important to notice that the denial of rationality as a useful explanatory and normative concept is not purely academic: it is linked to real decision-making and, in time, influences social attitudes and behavior.

The concept of open rationality, proposed here, starts by analysing critically what seems to be problematic or untenable about the assumptions of rationality behind the dominant models of decision-making. We start from the „classical perspective” on rationality, largely associated with the Humean instrumental approach to reason and developed by rational choice theory and game theory. We then explore various attempts to depart from this perspective and assess to what degree these attempts imply a modification of underlying theoretical assumptions of the classical model. On this basis, we develop a concept of open rationality, understood as rationality that is sensitive to context (although not determined by it) and open to trial-and-error adjustments brought about by the communicative action of real decision-makers. The assumptions of rational adequacy that underlie different theoretical approaches are part of a social understanding which evolves and responds to contextual demands and constraints. However, all these assumptions are possible only by adopting a meta-assumption of rationality, according to which opinions, decisions and actions can be described as more or less adequate in relation to other opinions, decisions or actions.

As such, we argue that rationality is essential in articulating preconditions of adequacy for theoretical discourse in general, as well as for decision and action. Although sensitive to context, rationality is never determined by any given context (and thus is not „relative”). Its strength lies precisely in the ability to challenge the boundaries of a particular self-understanding and to participate in a larger dialogue that extends beyond the initial epistemic community.

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