Article

The Rationality of Being Guided by Rules

Edward F. McClennen

in The Oxford Handbook of Rationality

Published in print February 2004 | ISBN: 9780195145397
Published online September 2009 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780195145397.003.0012
 The Rationality of Being Guided by Rules

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This article addresses a fundamental dilemma facing the claim that it is rational to be guided by rules. Either the practical verdict issued by a rule is the same as that favored by the balance of reasons, in which case the rule is redundant or the verdicts differ, in which case the rule should be abandoned. This article argues that this dilemma can be resolved by revising the account of practical reasoning to accord with the prescriptions of a resolute choice model. Agents in societies in which people resolutely follow, for example, a rule to keep their commitments to return favors fare better than agents in societies that lack a commitment mechanism or in which costs are incurred to enforce it.

Keywords: rules; practical verdict; practical reasoning; choice model; commitment mechanism

Article.  9333 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy ; Philosophy of Language

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