Whither Rationality?

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Zilhão, António
conference paper description
The debate concerning human rationality has been revolving around four main standpoints: 1) Unbounded rationality, 2) Optimization under constraints, 3) Heuristics and biases, and 4) Ecological rationality. Typically, proponents of 3) and 4) criticize models 1) and 2) for their cognitive unrealism. However, many ethologists contend that it makes sense to account for data gathered in animal behaviour research along the lines defined by the latter models. Elaborating upon this contention, Stanovich suggested recently a fifth standpoint in this debate – I’ll call it ‘Brute Rationality’. According to it, traditional rational choice models are more appropriate to account for the behaviour of creatures endowed with simple cognitive architectures rather than to account for human behaviour. In my talk, I´ll contend that the term ‘rationality’ is being used in this debate to cover too wide a semantic area. In fact, once one distinguishes the different meanings associated with it, the positions defining this debate reveal themselves to be much less clear than what is usually taken to be the case.