Rationality in Action / Edition 1

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The study of rationality and practical reason, or rationality in action, has been central to Western intellectual culture. In this invigorating book, John Searle lays out six claims of what he calls the Classical Model of rationality and shows why they are false. He then presents an alternative theory of the role of rationality in thought and action.

A central point of Searle's theory is that only irrational actions are directly caused by beliefs and desires— for example, the actions of a person in the grip of an obsession or addiction. In most cases of rational action, there is a gap between the motivating desire and the actual decision making. The traditional name for this gap is "freedom of the will." According to Searle, all rational activity presupposes free will. For rationality is possible only where one has a choice among various rational as well as irrational options.

Unlike many philosophical tracts,Rationality in Action invites the reader to apply the author's ideas to everyday life. Searle shows, for example, that contrary to the traditional philosophical view, weakness of will is very common. He also points out the absurdity of the claim that rational decision making always starts from a consistent set of desires. Rational decision making, he argues, is often about choosing between conflicting reasons for action. In fact, humans are distinguished by their ability to be rationally motivated by desire-independent reasons for action. Extending his theory of rationality to the self, Searle shows how rational deliberation presupposes an irreducible notion of the self. He also reveals the idea of free will to be essentially a thesis of how the brain works.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Rationality in Action will prove to be a classic on the topic of human agency which will endure for the ages. This is a stimulating, carefully argued book that is readily accessible to a thoughtful reader." -Larry McKaughan, American Journal ofPsychology

"A significant contribution to the philosophy of rational action, and its implications for the problem of free will." David Hodgson Journal of Consciousness Studies

"There is no avoiding the fact that this is technical philosophy...[yet]nothing in it is inaccessible." Anthony Freeman Times Higher Education Supplement

American Journal of Psychology - Larry McKaughan
Rationality in Action will prove to be a classic on the topic of human agency which will endure for the ages. This is a stimulating, carefully argued book that is readily accessible to a thoughtful reader.
Journal of Consciousness Studies - David Hodgson
A significant contribution to the philosophy of rational action, and its implications for the problem of free will.
Times Higher Education Supplement - Anthony Freeman
There is no avoiding the fact that this is technical philosophy... [yet]nothing in it is inaccessible.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780262692823
  • Publisher: MIT Press
  • Publication date: 3/1/2003
  • Series: Jean Nicod Lectures
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 319
  • Sales rank: 983,782
  • Product dimensions: 5.37 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.75 (d)

Meet the Author

John R. Searle is Mills Professor of the Philosophy of Mind and Language at the University ofCalifornia, Berkeley.

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Table of Contents

Series Foreword
1 The Classical Model of Rationality and Its Weaknesses 1
2 The Basic Structure of Intentionality, Action, and Meaning 33
3 The Gap: Of Time and the Self 61
4 The Logical Structure of Reasons 97
5 Some Special Features of Practical Reason: Strong Altruism as a Logical Requirement 135
6 How We Create Desire-independent Reasons for Action 167
App. to Ch. 6 Internal and External Reasons 214
7 Weakness of Will 219
8 Why There Is No Deductive Logic of Practical Reason 239
9 Consciousness, Free Action, and the Brain 269
Index 299
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