The Nature of Rationality

THE NATURE OF RATIONALITY is a fascinating discussion of rationality, which is defined as a special method of thinking which is limited to the human species.

The book begins with a discussion of principles, defined as a set of rules which are formulated on the basis of empirical data, and then used to dictate future behaviors. A clear distinction is made between scientific law, which is provable and based on observerable facts, and moral belief, which is much harder to define, but just as central to humankind’s reasons for acting as they do.

The book then goes on to discuss a number of classic rational dilemmas, cases in which choices are made depending upon modes of reasoning. Different methods of reasoning, all seemingly rational, dictate different choices. The basic dichotomy between dominance and reliability is presented. In the former mode of thinking, the choice is made according to the best possible outcome; in the latter case, the choice is made on the basis of probability of best results. The text that follows is a discussion of the advantages and disadvantages of these various modes of thought.

Underlying all of these discussions is the basic question of just why rational belief and reasoning have any value at all. A critical analysis is made of the value of acting on the basis of reasons, as opposed to acting on the basis of best results.

THE NATURE OF RATIONALITY is not light reading, by any means. Basic questions are addressed, and extremely complicated concepts are discussed. Nevertheless, the book is written in clearly understandable language and is accessible to anyone with an interest in such topics and a reasonable amount of patience.