Bounded rationality, scissors, crowbars, and pragmatism: reflections on Herbert Simon

  • Thomas NicklesEmail author


The paper locates, appreciates, and extends several dimensions of Simon’s work in the direction of more recent contributions by people such as Gigerenzer and Dennett. The author’s “crowbar model of method” is compared to Simon’s scissors metaphor. Against an evolutionary background, both support a pragmatic rather than strong realist approach to theoretically deep and complex problems. The importance of implicit knowledge (knowhow) is emphasized, for humans (including scientists working forward at research frontiers), as well as nonhuman animals. Although Simon was a realist in some respects, his work on bounded rationality, satisficing, problem solving, heuristics, models, and scientific discovery mark him as a pragmatist. Indeed, he should be regarded as one of the great American pragmatists, alongside Peirce, James, Dewey, and a few others.


Herbert Simon Bounded rationality Models The crowbar model Realism Pragmatism 



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© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of Nevada, RenoRenoUSA

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