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Rational Definitions and Defining Rationality

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

Abstract

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.

Keywords

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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Notes

  1. 1.
    ‘Reflective Equilibrium, Analytic Epistemology and the Problem of Cognitive Diversity,’ Synthese 74 (1988), p. 391.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    A Theory of Justice (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1971), p. 5.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Laurence Bonjour, The Structure of Empirical Knowledge (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1985); Alvin Goldman, Epistemology and Cognition (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1986); Richard Foley, The Theory of Epistemic Rationality (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1987).Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    I discuss the epistemic goal in more detail in ‘Arbitrary Reasons,’ in Roth and Ross, eds., Doubting: Contemporary Essays on Skepticism (Dordrecht: Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht, 1990), pp. 39-55.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    ‘Reflective Equilibrium,’ p. 405.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    ‘Reflective Equilibrium,’ p. 396.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Fact, Fiction, and Forecast, Third Edition (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, 1979), p. 64.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    ‘Reflective Equilibrium,’ p. 398.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    ‘Reflective Equilibrium,’ p. 408.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    ‘Reflective Equilibrium,’ p. 409.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    ‘Reflective Equilibrium,’ p. 407.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    ‘Reflective Equilibrium,’ p. 408.Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    What would they do if their community thought it of the first importance that people form their own opinions and never just go along with the crowd? Since this individualism is (by hypothesis) of the first importance, they would have to stop being xenophobic.Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    It is interesting to note that Rawls would qualify as an accidental conservative by this classification (see the way he characterizes justice as fairness as a political theory in ‘Justice as Fairness: Political Not Metaphysical,’ Philosophy and Public Affairs (1985), 223-251, and in ‘The Idea of an Overlapping Consensus,’ Oxford Journal of Legal Studies 7 (1987), 1-24. In light of the following passage (from Whose Justice? Which Rationality? (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1988), p. 4), Alasdair Maclntyre might be an example of a xenophobic conservative: Those who resorted or resort to academic philosophy hoped or hope to acquire thereby a set of sound arguments by means of which they could assure themselves and others of the rational justification for their views. Those who resort instead to a set of beliefs embodied in the life of a group put their trust in persons rather than in arguments. However, the view of practical rationality he eventually develops leads me to think that the above passage is a slip of the pen.Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    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
  16. 16.
    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
  17. 17.
    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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