Edward Stein

in Without Good Reason

Published in print December 1997 | ISBN: 9780198237730
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191679520 | DOI:

Series: Clarendon Library of Logic and Philosophy


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This chapter examines arguments saying that the rationality thesis is an empirical truth. The general argument, based on evolutionary theory, is initially quite appealing, and many philosophers have (at least implicitly) endorsed it. This evolutionary argument involves two parts. The first is the claim that evolution, through natural selection, will select for cognitive mechanisms that generate true beliefs. The second part posits a connection between rationality and the use of mechanisms that produce true beliefs. The chapter argues that the evolutionary argument fails to provide support for human rationality. First, it considers an intuitive argument in favour of this step of the evolutionary argument. This argument tries to establish the connection between evolution and truth by way of natural selection and optimality: evolution is driven by natural selection and natural selection will select for optimal principles, namely, those principles that select true beliefs. Also discussed in the chapter are the Garcia effect and the link between rationality and reproductive success.

Keywords: rationality; evolution; natural selection; true beliefs; truth; optimality; Garcia effect; reproductive success; cognitive mechanisms

Chapter.  17804 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Mind

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