Without Good Reason

Without Good Reason : The Rationality Debate in Philosophy and Cognitive Science

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Are humans rational? Various experiments performed over the last several decades have been interpreted as showing that humans are irrational-we make significant and consistent errors in logical reasoning, probabilistic reasoning, similarity judgements, and risk-assessment, to name a few areas. But can these experiments establish human irrationality, or is it a conceptual truth that humans must be rational, as various philosophers have argued?

In this book, Edward Stein offers a clear critical account of this debate about rationality in philosophy and cognitive science. He discusses concepts of rationality-the pictures of rationality that the debate centres on-and assesses the empirical evidence used to argue that humans are irrational. He concludes that the question of human rationality must be answered not conceptually but empirically, using the full resources of an advanced cognitive science. Furthermore, he extends this
conclusion to argue that empirical considerations are also relevant to the theory of knowledge-in other words, that epistemology should be naturalized.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 306 pages
  • 144 x 224 x 23mm | 518g
  • Clarendon Press
  • Oxford, United Kingdom
  • English
  • New
  • line figures, tables
  • 0198235747
  • 9780198235743

Back cover copy

Are humans rational? Various experiments performed over the last several decades have been interpreted as showing that humans are irrational, we make significant and consistent errors in logical reasoning, probabilistic reasoning, similarity judgements, and risk-assessment, to name a few areas. But can these experiments establish human irrationality, or is it a conceptual truth that humans must be rational, as various philosophers have argued? In this book, Edward Stein offers a clear critical account of this debate about rationality in philosophy and cognitive science. He discusses concepts of rationality - the pictures of rationality that the debate centres - on and assesses the empirical evidence used to argue that humans are irrational. He concludes that the question of human rationality must be answered not conceptually but empirically, using the full resources of an advanced cognitive science. Furthermore, he extends this conclusion to argue that empirical considerations are also relevant to the theory of knowledge - in other words, that epistemology should be naturalized.
show more

Review quote

The whole book is written in a clear, lively and enjoyable style. It is carefully-argued throughout ... it is an excellent attempt at a synoptic cognitivist account of the philosophical implications of the experimental investigation of human rationality. I strongly recommend it to lecturers and students of the philosophy of mind and cognition as the best comprehensive survey of the literature on rationality. * John Preston, University of Reading * This book's very considerable value is for professionals, on account of both style and content * J. D. Kenyon, Times Higher Education Supplement * The book contains a particularly clear apraisal - the best in the literature, I thought - of arguments for the rationality thesis from the "principle of Charity". (C. 4), as well as a careful, thorough and sophisticated examination of the arguments which portray the rationality thesis as the ... outcome of evolution by natural selection ... The whole book is written in a clear, lively and enjoyable style. It is carefully-argued throughout ... I strongly recommend it
to lecturers and students of the philosophy of mind and cognition as the best comprehensive survey of the literature on rationality. * John Preston, Mind * very clearly written and accessible book.../ Stein has provided a great many points of departure for further exploration into both sides of the central question 'Are we rational?'./ Joshua Gert, University of Illinois at Chicago, The Philosophical Quarterly, April 1999
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