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On Three Alleged Theories of Rational Behavior

  • STUART RACHELS (a1)
  • DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0953820809990252
  • Published online: 12 November 2009
Abstract

What behavior is rational? It's rational to act ethically, some think. Others endorse instrumentalism – it is rational to pursue one's goals. Still others say that acting rationally always involves promoting one's self-interest. Many philosophers have given each of these answers. But these answers don't really conflict; they aren't vying to describe some shared concept or to solve some mutually acknowledged problem. In so far as this is debated, it is a pseudo-debate. The different uses of ‘rational action’ differ merely in meaning. I shall defend the following claims: ‘rational behavior’ is used in ethical, prudential, and instrumental ways (section I); these uses of ‘rational behavior’ are distinct (section II); they do not represent competing theories of rational behavior (section III); we should stop using ‘rational behavior’ ethically and prudentially, but we may continue its instrumental use (section IV).

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This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

William K. Frankena , ‘Sidgwick and the History of Ethical Dualism’, Essays on Henry Sidgwick, ed. B. Schultz (Cambridge, 1992), pp. 175–98, at p. 194

Bernard Williams , ‘Internal and External Reasons’, Moral Luck (Cambridge, 1981), pp. 101–13

M. Allingham , Rational Choice (Basingstoke, 1999), pp. 12

J. E. Hampton , The Authority of Reason (Cambridge, 1998)

Peter Gardenfors and Nils-Eric Sahlin , ‘Introduction: Bayesian Decision Theory – Foundations and Problems’, Decision, Probability and Utility, ed. P. Gardenfors and N. Sahlin (Cambridge, 1988), pp. 115, at p. 4

Philip Pettit and Michael Smith , ‘Practical Unreason’, Mind 102 (1993), p. 58

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Utilitas
  • ISSN: 0953-8208
  • EISSN: 1741-6183
  • URL: /core/journals/utilitas
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