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Elster The Nature And Scope Of Rational Choice Explanation Notes

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Jon Elster - The Nature and Scope of Rational-Choice Explanation


What is intentionality?
* establishes behaviour as action and the performer as an agent
* relation between behaviour (B), a set of cognitions (C), and a set of desires (D)
* the desires and beliefs must be reasons for the behaviour, so
# Given C, B is the best means to realize D
* insufficient for 'the occurrence of the behaviour for which they are reasons' because B could be recognized as the best means yet be very difficult/impossible in the particular circumstances. Also the same behaviour - B - may occur for reasons other than C and D
# C and D caused B
* this is also insufficient because the same causes C and D could produce quite different behaviour. In other words, C and D could act as a cause, but not qua reason
# C and D caused B qua reasons - sufficient
* 'When the desire of the rifleman causes him to miss the target, we point to something like psychological turbulence or emotional excitement, not the strength of the desire'
* the emotional halo that surrounds the reason (strength of desire) is irrelevant for its efficacy qua reason, but may affect its efficacy qua nonrational cause
* in other words, emotions such as the one above can form causes in intentional explanations, but they will be nonrational causes Rational-choice explanation goes beyond intentionality
* to be rational, behaviour must stem from desires and beliefs (C and D) that are in some sense rational
* we need a stronger relation between the beliefs and desires and the action
* minimally, we require that
# The set of beliefs C is internally consistent
# The set of desires D is internally consistent
* for a belief in an outcome to be consistent, there must be a possible world in which it is feasible (i.e. it is a logical possibility)
* actions may be guided by inconsistent desires or beliefs
* we may of course demand more from rationality than consistency - we may want the belief (C) to be well grounded. So, three conditions are to be satisfied
# The belief - C - must be the best belief, given the available evidence
* presupposes strong rule of inductive inference
# The belief must be caused by the available evidence
* rules out possibility of striking upon the correct belief by accident
# The evidence must cause the belief "in the right way"
* rules out possibility that one might arrive at the belief warranted by the evidence, but by the wrong reasoning
* however, this is incomplete, because we also need a condition regarding how much evidence it is rational to collect
* could we similarly demand substantive rationality of the desires?
# maybe
* we must draw a stronger connection between desires and behaviour, but one that excludes

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