Leading biologists and philosophers of biology discuss the basic theories and concepts of biology and their connections with ethics, economics, and psychology, providing a remarkably unified report on the “state of the art” in the philosophy of biology.
In an insightful assessment of the study and teaching of writing against the larger theoretical, political, and technological upheavals of the past thirty years, Fragments of Rationality questions why composition studies has been less affected by postmodern theory than other humanities and social science disciplines.
The Limits of Rationality
Edited by Karen Schweers Cook and Margaret Levi University of Chicago Press, 1990 Library of Congress HM101.L495 1990 | Dewey Decimal 303.4
Prevailing economic theory presumes that agents act rationally when they make decisions, striving to maximize the efficient use of their resources. Psychology has repeatedly challenged the rational choice paradigm with persuasive evidence that people do not always make the optimal choice. Yet the paradigm has proven so successful a predictor that its use continues to flourish, fueled by debate across the social sciences over why it works so well.
Intended to introduce novices to rational choice theory, this accessible, interdisciplinary book collects writings by leading researchers. The Limits of Rationality illuminates the rational choice paradigm of social and political behavior itself, identifies its limitations, clarifies the nature of current controversies, and offers suggestions for improving current models.
In the first section of the book, contributors consider the theoretical foundations of rational choice. Models of rational choice play an important role in providing a standard of human action and the bases for constitutional design, but do they also succeed as explanatory models of behavior? Do empirical failures of these explanatory models constitute a telling condemnation of rational choice theory or do they open new avenues of investigation and theorizing?
Emphasizing analyses of norms and institutions, the second and third sections of the book investigate areas in which rational choice theory might be extended in order to provide better models. The contributors evaluate the adequacy of analyses based on neoclassical economics, the potential contributions of game theory and cognitive science, and the consequences for the basic framework when unequal bargaining power and hierarchy are introduced.
Given that Enlightenment rationality developed in Europe as European nations aggressively claimed other parts of the world for their own enrichment, scholars have made rationality the subject of postcolonial critique, questioning its universality and objectivity. In On Reason, the late philosopher Emmanuel Chukwudi Eze demonstrates that rationality, and by extension philosophy, need not be renounced as manifestations or tools of Western imperialism. Examining reason in connection to the politics of difference—the cluster of issues known variously as cultural diversity, political correctness, the culture wars, and identity politics—Eze expounds a rigorous argument that reason is produced through and because of difference. In so doing, he preserves reason as a human property while at the same time showing that it cannot be thought outside the realities of cultural diversity. Advocating rationality in a multicultural world, he proposes new ways of affirming both identity and difference.
Eze draws on an extraordinary command of Western philosophical thought and a deep knowledge of African philosophy and cultural traditions. He explores models of rationality in the thought of philosophers from Aristotle, René Descartes, Francis Bacon, and Thomas Hobbes to Noam Chomsky, Richard Rorty, Hilary Putnam, and Jacques Derrida, and he considers portrayals of reason in the work of the African thinkers and novelists Chinua Achebe, Ngugi wa Thiong’o, and Wole Soyinka. Eze reflects on contemporary thought about genetics, race, and postcolonial historiography as well as on the interplay between reason and unreason in the hearings of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission. He contends that while rationality may have a foundational formality, any understanding of its foundation and form is dynamic, always based in historical and cultural circumstances.
Rationality and Freedom
Amartya Sen Harvard University Press, 2002 Library of Congress HB846.8.S466 2002 | Dewey Decimal 302.13
Rationality and freedom are among the most profound and contentious concepts in philosophy and the social sciences. In two volumes on rationality, freedom, and justice, the distinguished economist and philosopher Amartya Sen brings clarity and insight to these difficult issues. This volume—the first of the two—is principally concerned with rationality and freedom.
Sen scrutinizes and departs from the standard criteria of rationality, and shows how it can be seen in terms of subjecting one’s values as well as choices to the demands of reason and critical scrutiny. This capacious approach is utilized to illuminate the demands of rationality in individual choice (including decisions under uncertainty) as well as social choice (including cost benefit analysis and environmental assessment).
Identifying a reciprocity in the relationship between rationality and freedom, Sen argues that freedom cannot be assessed independently of a person’s reasoned preferences and valuations, just as rationality, in turn, requires freedom of thought. Sen uses the discipline of social choice theory (a subject he has helped to develop) to illuminate the demands of reason and the assessment of freedom. The latter is the subject matter of Sen’s previously unpublished Arrow Lectures included here.
The essays in these volumes contribute to Sen’s ongoing transformation of economic theory and social philosophy, and to our understanding of the connections among rationality, freedom, and social justice.
"It's like the story of Little Town," an influential actor says in Rationality and Power when choosing a metaphor to describe how he manipulated rationality to gain power, "The bell ringer . . . has to set the church clock. So he calls the telephone exchange and asks what time it is, and the telephone operator looks out the window towards the church clock and says, 'It's five o'clock.' 'Good,' says the bell ringer, 'then my clock is correct.'"
In the Enlightenment tradition, rationality is considered well-defined, independent of context; we know what rationality is, and its meaning is constant across time and space. Bent Flyvbjerg shows that rationality is context-dependent and that the crucial context is determined by decision-makers' power. Power blurs the dividing line between rationality and rationalization. The result is a rationality that is often as imaginary as the time in Little Town, yet with very real social and environmental consequences.
Flyvbjerg takes us behind the scenes to uncover the real politics—and real rationality—of policy-making, administration, and planning in an internationally acclaimed project for environmental improvement, auto traffic reduction, land use, and urban renewal. The action takes place in the Danish city of Aalborg, but it could be anywhere. Aalborg is to Flyvbjerg what Florence was to Machiavelli: a laboratory for understanding power and what it means for our more general concerns of social and political organization. Policy-making, administration, and planning are examined in ways that allow a rare, in-depth understanding. The reader is a firsthand witness to the classic, endless drama that defines what democracy and modernity are, and what they can be.
The result is a fascinating narrative that is both concrete and general, current and timeless. Drawing on the ideas of Machiavelli, Nietzsche, Foucault, and Habermas, Flyvbjerg reads the Aalborg case as a metaphor of modernity and of modern politics, administration, and planning. Flyvbjerg uncovers the interplay of power and rationality that distorts policy deliberation. He demonstrates that modern "rationality" is but an ideal when confronted with the real rationalities involved in decision making by central actors in government, economy, and civil society. Flyvbjerg then elaborates on how this problem can be dealt with so that more fruitful deliberation and action can occur.
If the new millennium marks a recurrence of the real, Flyvbjerg's Rationality and Power epitomizes this development, setting new standards for social and political inquiry. Richly informed, powerfully argued, and clearly written, this is a book that no one trying to understand policy-making, administration, and planning can afford to overlook.
"Flyvbjerg employs a wide-ranging intellect, an enthusiastic and persuasive voice, academic rigor, and great discipline to distill years of research into an outstanding and accessible 250-page civics lesson. It begs for a readership outside academic and professional circles . . . Rationality and Power's value is undeniable as a handbook and forensic tool for anyone seeking a better understanding of and access to the democratic process."—Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
"It makes an extremely strong, and to the reviewer's mind incontrovertible, argument for placing the analysis of planning within the context of power relations. As a result it will also make a significant mark on the development of planning theory."—Geographical Journal
"A book that is to be recommended doubly, first to all those engaged in planning and implementation in a democratic context, and also to all those interested in empirical power research. Rationality and Power is rewarding even enthralling reading, a seminal contribution to its field."—European Societies
"This book is a must for anyone interested in how planning works . . . a reality shock . . . excellent and illuminating."—International Planning Studies
This volume broadens our concept of reasoning and rationality to allow for a more pluralistic and situational view of human thinking as a practical activity. Drawing on contributors across disciplines including philosophy, economics, psychology, statistics, computer science, engineering, and physics, Reasoning, Rationality, and Probability argues that the search for strong theories should leave room for the construction of context-sensitive conceptual tools. Both science and everyday life, the authors argue, are too complex and multifaceted to be forced into ready-made schemata.
Hartwig views the Columbian Ministry of Public Works, applying a theoretical model of rationality and responsibility to view how policy failures were caused by faulty definitions of problems and mistaken approaches in building Andean Highways from 1922-1974. This book will interest those involved in policy administration, organization theory, and policy planning in both developed and developing countries.
Self-deception is one of the topics that lends itself best to the task of exploring the possibilities of cross-fertilization between 'continental philosophy' and 'analytic philosophy'. Fifty years ago, in Being and Nothingness, Sartre defined the core notion of 'Bad Faith' as lying to oneself. On the other side of the Atlantic, self-deception has become one of the most exciting puzzles in the philosophy of mind, and a number of paradoxes encountered by the theory of rational choice involve that very same notion. One of the objectives is to show that bridges can be thrown over the gap between the two traditions, but also that both of them make self-deception too intrapsychic and suffer from a serious individualistic bias. The conference was intended to explore the intersubjective and social dimensions of self-deception.
Why do we volunteer time? Why do we contribute money? Why, even, do we vote, if the effect of a single vote is negligible? Rationality-based microeconomic models are hard-pressed to explain such social behavior, but Howard Margolis proposes a solution. He suggests that within each person there are two selves, one selfish and the other group-oriented, and that the individual follows a Darwinian rule for allocating resources between those two selves.
"Howard Margolis's intriguing ideas . . . provide an alternative to the crude models of rational choice that have dominated economics and political science for too long."—Times Literary Supplement
Nearly fifty years ago, the Bureau of Reclamation proposed building a dam at the confluence of two rivers in Central Arizona. While the dam would bring valuable water to this arid plain, it would also destroy a wildlife habitat, flood archaeological sites, and force the Yavapai Indians off their ancestral home. The Struggle for Water is not only the fascinating story of this controversial and ultimately thwarted public works project but also a study of rationality as a cultural, organizational, and political construct.
In the 1970s, the three groups most intimately involved in the Orme Dam—younger Bureau of Reclamation employees committed to "rational choice" decision making, older Bureau engineers committed to the dam, and the Yavapai community—all found themselves and their values transformed by their struggles. Wendy Nelson Espeland lays bare the relations between interests and identities that emerged during the conflict, creating a contemporary tale of power and colonization, bureaucracies and democratic practice, that asks the crucial question of what it means to be "rational."
Two Kinds of Rationality was first published in 1995. Minnesota Archive Editions uses digital technology to make long-unavailable books once again accessible, and are published unaltered from the original University of Minnesota Press editions.
Beginning with a discussion of mind-body dualism in social anthropology, Evens presents a profound theory of human conduct that deploys notions of hierarchy and practice. He uses the case study of an Israeli kibbutz to address the central anthropological problem of rationality.
Of particular interest is Evens's interpretation of the Genesis myth, as well as his reading of Rousseau's revision of this myth, as paradigms of generational conflict and the kibbutz's logic of moral order. These interpretations are tied to Evens's detailed discussion of a controversial attempt to introduce secret balloting into a particular kibbutz's directly democratic process.
Two Kinds of Rationality distinguishes between instrumental and mythic rationality, picturing the latter as a value rationality. Projecting reality as basically ambiguous, Evens offers a critique of theoretical approaches to social action and a rethinking of contemporary notions of human agency. This revolutionary theoretical work will appeal to social and political theorists, anthropologists, and students of cultural studies, social movements, and Jewish studies.
T. M. S. Evens is professor of anthropology at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. He is the author of numerous articles and coeditor of Transcendence in Society: Case Studies (1990), a comparative study of social movements.