Phil 397: Practical Reasoning

State University of New York at Geneseo

Fall 2003

  Professor JeeLoo Liu


Q: What human behaviors are generally irrational?

____ common behavior: wishful thinking, self-deception, enjoys flattery, denial of truth, emotional response, resentment of politicians,

____ eccentric behavior: gambling, buying lottery, compulsive buying, trusting psychics, seek unjustified ways to change oneีs lot,


Q: Do you think that humans are rational?  If we are generally rational, under what conditions do we act irrationally?  How does irrationality creep into our thinking or behavioral mode?



Q: Is there a significant difference in our reasoning when it concerns our well-being?  Does reasoning involving self-interest operation in the same way as reasoning on purely theoretical matter?



Q: Why is there a gap between oneีs judgment and oneีs action?  Do such gaps threaten human rationality?  Or is weakness of will a separate issue?



Q: What is the foundation of human rationality?  Is it by nature or by social convention?  How much of rationality itself (not just standards of rationality) is relative to society?



Q: Do humans evolve in terms of rationality?  Are primitive people as rational as we are?  To what extent is rationality based on knowledge about the world?



Lecture Outline



Stephen Stich: Could Man Be An Irrational Animal?

Donald Davidson: Who Is Fooled?

Donald Davidson: Incoherence and Irrationality

Donald Davidson: Paradoxes of Irrationality

Donald Davidson: Deception and Division

Donald Davidson: How Is Weakness of Will Possible

Ariela Lazar: Division and Deception: Davison on Being Self-Deceived

Jean-Pierre Dupuy: Rationality and Self-Deception

Kent Bach: (Apparent) Paradoxes of Self-Deception and Decision

Alfred Mele: Self-Deception Unmasked (Chapter I, II, III, IV, V)

Simon Blackburn: Ruling Passions (Chapter 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9)

Robert Audi: The Architecture of Reason (Chapters 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6)