Rationality & Freedom

Rationality and Freedom
by Amartya Sen

Rationality and freedom are among the most profound and contentious concepts in philosophy and the social sciences. In two volumes on rationality, freedom, and justice, the distinguished economist and philosopher Amartya Sen brings clarity and insight to these difficult issues. This volume–the first of the two–is principally concerned with rationality and freedom.

Sen scrutinizes and departs from the standard criteria of rationality, and shows how it can be seen in terms of subjecting one’s values as well as choices to the demands of reason and critical scrutiny. This capacious approach is utilized to illuminate the demands of rationality in individual choice (including decisions under uncertainty) as well as social choice (including cost benefit analysis and environmental assessment).

Identifying a reciprocity in the relationship between rationality and freedom, Sen argues that freedom cannot be assessed independently of a person’s reasoned preferences and valuations, just as rationality, in turn, requires freedom of thought. Sen uses the discipline of social choice theory (a subject he has helped to develop) to illuminate the demands of reason and the assessment of freedom. The latter is the subject matter of Sen’s previously unpublished Arrow Lectures included here.

The essays in these volumes contribute to Sen’s ongoing transformation of economic theory and social philosophy, and to our understanding of the connections among rationality, freedom, and social justice.


Rationality and freedom
by Amartya Kumar Sen

Rationality and freedom are among the most profound and contentious concepts in philosophy and the social sciences. In two volumes on rationality, freedom, and justice, the distinguished economist and philosopher Amartya Sen brings clarity and insight to these difficult issues. This volume–the first of the two–is principally concerned with rationality and freedom.

Sen scrutinizes and departs from the standard criteria of rationality, and shows how it can be seen in terms of subjecting one’s values as well as choices to the demands of reason and critical scrutiny. This capacious approach is utilized to illuminate the demands of rationality in individual choice (including decisions under uncertainty) as well as social choice (including cost benefit analysis and environmental assessment).

Identifying a reciprocity in the relationship between rationality and freedom, Sen argues that freedom cannot be assessed independently of a person’s reasoned preferences and valuations, just as rationality, in turn, requires freedom of thought. Sen uses the discipline of social choice theory (a subject he has helped to develop) to illuminate the demands of reason and the assessment of freedom. The latter is the subject matter of Sen’s previously unpublished Arrow Lectures included here.

The essays in these volumes contribute to Sen’s ongoing transformation of economic theory and social philosophy, and to our understanding of the connections among rationality, freedom, and social justice.


Faith, Freedom, and Rationality
by Jeff Jordan, Daniel Howard-Snyder

The philosophy of religion, once considered a deviation from an otherwise analytically rigorous discipline, has flourished over the past two decades. This collection of new essays by twelve distinguished philosophers of religion explores three broad themes: religious attitudes of belief, acceptance, and love; human and divine freedom; and the rationality of religious belief.

Liberty, Rationality, and Agency in Hobbes’s Leviathan
by David van Mill

Marking a significant departure from most scholarship on Hobbes, this book offers new interpretations of his theories of freedom, agency, rationality, morality, psychology, and politics. Hobbes’s arguments concerning many different aspects of civil society and human psychology are brought together to provide a comprehensive theory of agency. Hobbes’s theory of freedom is demonstrated to be considerably more complicated than previously thought, revealing a concern with both “internal” and “external” conditions of action. On close examination Hobbes can be seen to move beyond his limited definition of negative liberty and to champion autonomous rational action. Throughout, the book evaluates the relevance of this reformulation for contemporary debates in political philosophy.

Rationality in Action
by John R. Searle

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.


Rationality, Control, and Freedom
by Curran F. Douglass

The subject of this book is the controversy—one of the oldest in philosophy—about whether it is possible to have freedom in the face of universal causal determinism. Of course, it is crucial to consider what such freedom might mean—in particular, there is an important distinction between libertarian “free will” and the more naturalistic view of freedom taken by compatibilists.

This book provides background for laypersons through a historical survey of earlier views and some discussion and criticism of various contemporary views. In particular, it states and discusses the Consequence Argument, the most important argument challenging human freedom in recent literature. The main feature of the book is the argument for a solution: one that is within the compatibilist tradition, is naturalistic and in accord with findings of science and principles of engineering control theory. Some particular features of the offered solution include an argument for a close tie between freedom and control—where what is meant is the voluntary motion control of our bodies, and this “control” is understood naturalistically, by which the author means in accordance with concepts of engineering control theory and modern science. Such concepts are used to explain and demarcate the concept of “control” being used. Then it develops a working conception of what rationality is (since what is crucial is freedom in choice, and rationality is crucial to that), by reviewing texts on the subject by three expert authors (namely, Nathanson, Nozick, and Searle). It is argued that rationality is a species of biological learning control that involves deliberation; and that our freedom in choice is greatest when our choices are most rational.


Freedom and Reason
by R. M. Hare

Proceeds in a logical fashion to show how, when thinking morally, a man can be both free and rational.

Freedom and Rationality
by F. D’Agostino, Ian Jarvie

x philosophy when he inaugurated a debate about the principle of methodologi cal individualism, a debate which continues to this day, and which has inspired a literature as great as any in contemporary philosophy. Few collections of material in the general area of philosophy of social science would be considered complete unless they contained at least one of Watkins’s many contributions to the discussion of this issue. In 1957 Watkins published the flrst of a series of three papers (1957b, 1958d and 196Oa) in which he tried to codify and rehabilitate metaphysics within the Popperian philosophy, placing it somewhere between the analytic and the empirical. He thus signalled the emergence of an important implica tion of Popper’s thought that had not to that point been stressed by Sir Karl himself, and which marked off his followers from the antimetaphysical ideas of the regnant logical positivists. In 1965 years of work in political philosophy and in the history of philosophy in the seventeenth century were brought to fruition in Watkins’s widely cited and admired Hobbes’s System of Ideas (1965a, second edition 1973d). This book is an important contribution not just to our understanding of Hobbes’s political thinking, but, perhaps more importantly, to our understanding of the way in which a system of ideas is constituted and applied. Watkins built on earlier work in developing an account of Hobbes’s ideas in which was revealed and clarifled the unity of Hobbes’s metaphysical, epistemological and political ideas.

Understanding German Idealism
by Will Dudley

“Understanding German Idealism” provides an accessible introduction to the philosophical movement that emerged in 1781, with the publication of Kant’s monumental “Critique of Pure Reason”, and ended fifty years later, with Hegel’s death. The thinkers of this period, and the themes they developed revolutionized almost every area of philosophy and had an impact that continues to be felt across the humanities and social sciences today. Notoriously complex, the central texts of German Idealism have confounded the most capable and patient interpreters for more than 200 years. “Understanding German Idealism” aims to convey the significance of this philosophical movement while avoiding its obscurity. Readers are given a clear understanding of the problems that motivated Kant, Fichte, Schelling and Hegel and the solutions that they proposed. Dudley outlines the main ideas of transcendental idealism and explores how the later German Idealists attempted to carry out the Kantian project more rigorously than Kant himself, striving to develop a fully self-critical and rational philosophy, in order to determine the meaning and sustain the possibility of a free and rational modern life. The book examines some of the most important early criticisms of German Idealism and the philosophical alternatives to which they led, including romanticism, Marxism, existentialism, and naturalism.


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