Rationality and its Contexts

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2 Citations (Scopus)


For millennia philosophical works have attempted to describe, explicate, and evaluate rationality. Over the last century, new impetus was brought to this endeavor as mathematical logic along with the social and behavioral sciences emerged. Yet more recently, over the last several decades, propelled by the emergence of artificial intelligence, cognitive science, evolutionary psychology, neuropsychology, and related fields, even more sophisticated approaches to the study of rationality have emerged. Intriguingly, some among these new lines of inquiry have seemed to suggest that humans are not quite the rational creatures that Aristotle imagined us to be. Indeed, our performance on rational choice experiments is suboptimal, falling short of expected utility or Bayesian prescriptions. Sometimes even experts perform at alarmingly poor levels on tests directly relevant to their areas of expertise. But what suboptimal performances imply about the nature of rationality more generally is contentious, having triggered what is in some quarters referred to as the "rationality wars." Now, however, in large part the dust from those skirmishes has settled. Informed by the turbulence of recent decades, this volume's premise is that the way to advance the project of understanding rationality is to attend to the diverse contexts in which it is realized or fails to be realized, while also attending to how it is modulated. Here we concentrate on diverse though not discrete contexts: scientific, communicative, pathological, nonhuman, ostensible irrationality in Chinese philosophy, and the modulation of reason by emotion. An important step in reassessing "rationality" is to situate it in these variegated contexts, so to better understand how belief-forming processes are relativized and constrained. Future models of rationality will need to be grounded in just such an expansive foundation, if they are to further advance this seminal project.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationRationality
Subtitle of host publicationConstraints and Contexts
EditorsT.-W. Hung, T.J. Lane
Place of PublicationSan Diego
PublisherAcademic Press Inc.
Number of pages11
ISBN (Electronic)9780128046234
ISBN (Print)978-0-12-804600-5
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Bayesian models
  • Bounded rationality
  • Cognitive bias
  • Expected utility
  • Rationality
  • Rationality wars
  • Satisfice
  • Simplicity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)


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