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The Inner Life of a Rational AgentIn Defence of Philosophical Behaviourism$
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Rowland Stout

Print publication date: 2006

Print ISBN-13: 9780748623433

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: March 2012

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9780748623433.001.0001

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Rationality and Interpretation

Rationality and Interpretation

(p.99) 6 Rationality and Interpretation
The Inner Life of a Rational Agent

Rowland Stout

Edinburgh University Press

This chapter examines the meaning of a version of practical rationality. It argues that practical rationality is essentially dynamic – that one and the same version of rationality will give different recommendations at different times, for different people and so on. The chapter also claims that any version of rationality may embed an awful lot of irrationality. So the picture of agents as essentially rational beings is not the absurd picture of super-rational beings. It is shown that rationality is not a psychological matter – that the reasons we are sensitive to are not merely our own mental states or facts about these states. This is an important claim in the philosophy of rationality. The chapter also discusses the problem of the so-called holism of the mental – the idea that you can never be in a position to ascribe one mental state to someone without at the same time being able to ascribe a whole set of them. It concedes that behaviourism must be holistic in the sense that a disposition to behave does not correspond to a single propositional attitude but to an overall state of mind involving several propositional attitudes.

Keywords:   practical rationality, agents, rational beings, holism, mental state, behaviourism

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