Rationality In An Uncertain World. Psychology Press. 1998.


Since Aristotle’s claim that “man is the rational animal” the ability to reason has been regarded as one the hallmarks of the mental— organisms, like us, that can reason have minds, whereas organisms, like snails and pigeons, that could not reason do not have minds. For Descartes, animals were automata that simply responded to physical stimulation with no mediating processes of rational thought. Reasoning was not something that mere machines could do, but only non-physical souls. Such dualism about the physical realm and the non-physical thinking mind is also implicit in our everyday way of explaining our behavior using our “folk psychology”. The papers in this book present a more radical approach. What if the real inferences people draw in their everyday lives are not actually logical but conform to the prescriptions of some other formal, mechanisable theory? First, this possibility would suggest that people’s behavior in the reasoning laboratory may be the result of generalizing their normal non-logical strategies to these unfamiliar logical problems. Second, it would suggest that accounts that attempt to preserve logic as central to human reasoning, like all those we have discussed, are misguided—being based on logic they will not be able to generalize from the laboratory to the real world. Finally, there would be no need to abandon the central insight behind the cognitive revolution’s solution to placing the study of mind on a solid, physicalist footing

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