Structural Rationality and Other Essays on Practical Reason

  • Julian Nida-Rümelin

Part of the Theory and Decision Library A: book series (TDLA, volume 52)

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-xi
  2. Structural Rationality

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 1-1
    2. Julian Nida-Rümelin
      Pages 3-12
    3. Julian Nida-Rümelin
      Pages 13-20
    4. Julian Nida-Rümelin
      Pages 21-25
    5. Julian Nida-Rümelin
      Pages 27-32
    6. Julian Nida-Rümelin
      Pages 33-40
    7. Julian Nida-Rümelin
      Pages 41-47
    8. Julian Nida-Rümelin
      Pages 49-53
    9. Julian Nida-Rümelin
      Pages 55-63
  3. Back Matter
    Pages 65-134

About this book


In this book, the author shows that it is necessary to enrich the conceptual frame of the theory of rational choice beyond consequentialism. He argues that consequentialism as a general theory of rational action fails and that this does not force us into the dichotomy teleology vs deontology. The unity of practical reason can be saved without consequentialism. In the process, he presents insightful criticism of standard models of action and rational choice. This will help readers discover a new perspective on the theory of rationality.

The approach is radical: It transcends the reductive narrowness of instrumental rationality without denying its practical impact. Actions do exist that are outlined in accordance to utility maximizing or even self-interest maximizing. Yet, not all actions are to be understood in these terms. Actions oriented around social roles, for example, cannot count as irrational only because there is no known underlying maximizing heuristic.

The concept of bounded rationality tries to embed instrumental rationality into a form of life to highlight limits of our cognitive capabilities and selective perceptions. However, the agent is still left within the realm of cost-benefit-reasoning. The idea of social preferences or meta-preferences cannot encompass the plurality of human actions. According to the author they ignore the plurality of reasons that drive agency. Hence, they coerce agency in fitting into a theory that undermines humanity. His theory of structural rationality acknowledges lifeworld patterns of interaction and meaning. 


Economic rationality Externalism Practical reason Rationality Social choice theory Theory of action Consequentialism meta-preferences social preferences theory of rationality plurality of reasons patterns of interaction and meaning deontologist dichotomies models of action

Authors and affiliations

  • Julian Nida-Rümelin
    • 1
  1. 1.Lehrstuhl für Philosophie und politische TheorieLudwig-Maximilians-Universität MünchenMunichGermany

Bibliographic information