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Rationality of belief

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-W033-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved July 24, 2024, from

Article Summary

Humans, claimed Aristotle, are rational animals. However, recent psychological studies purport to show that people systematically deviate from canons of logic, probability theory, decision theory and statistics. Interpretations of these studies differ about the nature of the errors: on some views, there are no real errors at all; on others, subjects are distracted from applying the proper formal rules by, for example, the influence of conversational expectations. A common suggestion is that the reasoning subjects display is nearly optimal, once we take account of our severe cognitive limits in realistic circumstances or in our evolutionary history.

These diverse views reveal two opposed tendencies in constructing a theory of rationality. One favours the formal rules which, if violated in real life, could have serious consequences. The other holds that people’s actual practice provides the only standard. A popular model, incorporating both tendencies, holds that those principles or norms are justified that yield the best balance between our reasoning intuitions and the demands of theory or system.

Citing this article:
Adler, Jonathan E.. Rationality of belief, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-W033-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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