Article

Rationality

Patrick Rysiew

in Philosophy

ISBN: 9780195396577
Published online November 2012 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780195396577-0175
Rationality

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“Rationality” is among our central and most widely used evaluative notions. That humans are “rational animals” is a presumption built into the very name of our species, Homo sapiens; and the thought that humans are rational, perhaps distinctively so, appears to be part of the popular fabric of thought about ourselves. “Rational” and its complement “irrational” are standardly used, both in ordinary speech and across a variety of academic disciplines and subdisciplines, to describe persons, beliefs, actions, plans, policies, desires, decisions, institutions, and a host of other things. It is widely agreed that lying behind this richness of use is a general division between “theoretical” or “epistemic” rationality and “practical” rationality. But that distinction goes only so far in regimenting the concept and the issues with which it is bound up. Because it is a term that is used in so many ways, and with regard to such a wide range of topics and subjects, it does not admit of any neat analysis. Some have despaired of its being a useful general theoretical notion at all. Given its centrality, however, it is better to map the notion in its various principal employments than to try to get by without it. This entry lays out those employments and describes some of the main issues arising in connection with the notion of rationality.

Article.  12732 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy ; Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art ; Epistemology ; Feminist Philosophy ; History of Western Philosophy ; Metaphysics ; Moral Philosophy ; Non-Western Philosophy ; Philosophy of Language ; Philosophy of Law ; Philosophy of Mathematics and Logic ; Philosophy of Mind ; Philosophy of Religion ; Philosophy of Science ; Social and Political Philosophy

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