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Related to rationality: Bounded rationality


  1. action which is effective in achieving the purposes which it is intended to achieve, i.e. the means are appropriate to the ends. In such a definition of instrumental rationality, no attempt need be made to appraise the rationality of the ends themselves. This conception of rationality, in which economic actors are assumed to seek to maximize their own economic returns, is often the basis of theorizing in ECONOMICS, much of this operating by the construction of idealized models (see IDEAL TYPES). For further conceptions of rational action, and questions about these, see FORMAL AND SUBSTANTIVE RATIONALITY, TYPES OF SOCIAL ACTION.
  2. knowledge of beliefs which have been established scientifically, or on some other basis considered ‘rational’. Such beliefs are implied in 1 , but the ‘rationality’ of knowledge and beliefs raises wider issues than the instrumental effectiveness of knowledge or beliefs, e.g. extensive philosophical debates (see EPISTEMOLOGY, ONTOLOGY, SCIENCE, RATIONALISM).
Other important debates concern the ‘rationality’ or otherwise of so-called primitive mentality. Lévy-Bruhl (1923) argued that, although MYTHOLOGIES and beliefs in preindustrial, prescientific societies may have a cognitive value, they reflect levels of mentality which are ‘pre-logical’. An alternative view is that the myths and beliefs in such societies are ‘rational’ in the context in which they occur, see WINCH, MAGIC, RELATIVISM.

A rather different point is that many activities which at first sight appear ‘irrational’, on closer examination may be found to possess ‘latent functions’ (see LATENT AND MANIFEST FUNCTIONS), e.g. the ‘conservatism’ of many people in THIRD WORLD SOCIETIES, who may benefit economically, especially in old age, from having more children. In wider terms, ‘nonrational beliefs’, notably RELIGION, may perform general social functions, e.g. providing social integration (see also FUNCTIONALIST THEORY OF RELIGION). Such beliefs are sometimes regarded as encapsulating an accumulated institutional rationality, perhaps linked to survival. Conversely, actions which appear ‘rational’ from the narrow perspective of immediate instrumental rationality (e.g. cutting down the Brazilian rain forest) may be seen as ‘nonrational’, taking a wider view.

What all these considerations show is that the idea of’rationality’ is often difficult to define. While rationality in its simplest sense, l , can sometimes be established without undue difficulty, only rarely can the means to an end be fully ordered (e.g. in terms of cost, availability, etc.), and actors often lack other salient information, even when this is potentially available (see THEORY OF GAMES, RATIONAL CHOICE THEORY, SATISFICING, BOUNDED RATIONALITY).

References in periodicals archive ?
Indeed, if it were to be the case that they did not examine the reasons, they would not be able to decide whether the action, desire, or belief in question is rational or not; and, even if they claimed to have determined rationality on some other grounds, their decision would be arbitrary; or that they could be said not to be really interested in rationality at all.
and Hayek whose work and the use of the qualifiers, "constructivist" and "ecological" have led Smith to the distinction between the two types of rationality in economics.
The latest remarks of General Dempsey on Iran's rationality and Obama's offered path might be good signs of the West's willingness to rethink its stale policy and talk to Iran.
The findings relate in particular to the fact that the economic decision making is affected by psychological factors, cognitive and emotional, which differ from the rationality attributed to homoeconomicus.
If there is a central argument to this book, it is the relationship between different forms of rationality.
That story will also need to narrate our current cultural context and then attempt to narrate our future so that we can all begin to understand how to collaborate in expanding the reach of Christian rationality.
Henceforth I will take double-Humeans to be committed to the conjunction of the Humean theory of action and the Humean theory of rationality.
In short, human rationality is mostly a matter of passive, inadequate ideas.
it is the sight of the ball, rather than assessing rationality of choice of means as a function of the context, that primes the mouth action," said Gyorgy Gergely of Central European University's Cognitive Development Center in Budapest.
It is expected that individual rationality will mediate participants' processes of health-related information, interact with the message content variable, and thus conjointly affect their short-term changes of attitude toward healthy diets (H1) and behavioral intentions (H2).
In contemporary analytic philosophy the dominant views are still that, in matters of knowledge, rationality dictates what to believe and what to infer, and that, in practical matters, it dictates what action to perform or intend or desire; but some of the dictates may be relativised to other beliefs, values, desires or intentions of the person concerned.
not arguing that we lack rationality, but acknowledging that many of these "calls for reform" are really framing the situation (incorrectly) as a problem of economic rationality.