Rational Definitions and Defining Rationality

  • Steven Luper-Foy
Part of the Synthese Library book series (SYLI, volume 216)


Beliefs and the processes and procedures used to assess them vary quite a bit from person to person. Analytic philosophers of a certain ilk think they can substantially reduce these kinds of cognitive diversity. They believe that through the process of defining key terms of moral and epistemic justification they can identify and defend principles or procedures for belief adoption, retention, and rejection. These principles and procedures can then be used to identify acceptable cognitive states, thus giving us a rational basis on which to reduce cognitive diversity. Cognitive states are ones that store information about the world; for our purposes they may be thought of simply as beliefs.


Generic Rationality True Belief Cognitive Diversity Epistemic Justification Reflective Equilibrium 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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    Stich seems to regard truth as a non-epistemic goal, but I cannot be sure he does: There are lots of values that are both widely shared and directly relevant to our cognitive lives, though they are quite distinct from the “epistemic values” that lie behind our ordinary use of terms like ‘justified’ and ‘rational’… Thus, for example, many people attach high value to cognitive states that foster happiness. … And, on a rather different dimension, many people care deeply that their beliefs be true. (‘Reflective Equilibrium,’ p. 407)Google Scholar
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    The notion of satisficing is described by Gilbert Harman in Change in View: Principles of Reasoning (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1986), and by Herbert Simon in Sciences of the Artificial (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1969). Harman claims (p. 68) that while satisficing is acceptable in the practical sphere, “in theoretical reasoning one would not be justified in making an arbitrary choice of what to believe among competing hypotheses at the same level.” I maintain that such satisficing in theoretical reasoning is both acceptable and inevitable (see my essay ‘Arbitrary Reasons,’ in Doubting).Google Scholar
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    Compare John Cooper’s discussion of the intellectualist strand in Reason and Human Good in Aristotle (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, 1986).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • Steven Luper-Foy
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyTrinity UniversityUSA

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