Rationality

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The term "rationality" is used differently in different disciplines.

In philosophy, rationality is originally the exercise of reason, the way humans come to conclusions when considering things most consciously. However, the term "rationality" tends to be used in the specialized discussions of economics, sociology, psychology and political science. A rational decision is one that is not just reasoned, but in some way optimal, given the available information, in terms of achieving a goal, and individuals or organizations are called rational if they take rational decisions in pursuit of their goals. Thus one speaks, for example, of a rational allocation of resources, or of a rational corporate strategy. In this concept of "rationality", the individual's goals or motives are taken for granted and not made subject to criticism, ethical or otherwise. Thus, rationality simply refers to the success of goal attainment, whatever those goals may be. Sometimes, in this context, rationality is equated with behavior that is self-interested to the point of being selfish. Sometimes rationality implies having complete knowledge about all the details of a given situation.

Debates arise in these four fields about whether or not people or organizations are "really" rational, as well as whether it make sense to model them as such in formal models. Some have argued that a kind of bounded rationality makes more sense for such models.

Others think that any kind of rationality along the lines of rational choice theory is a useless concept for understanding human behavior; the term homo economicus (economic man: the imaginary man being assumed in economic models who is logically consistent but amoral) was coined largely in honor of this view.

Rationality is a central principle in artificial intelligence, where a rational agent is specifically defined as an agent which always chooses the action which maximises its expected performance, given all of the knowledge it currently possesses. Whether or not people are capable of rational thought is a key question in the psychology of reasoning.[1]

Contents

Quality of Rationality

It is believed by some philosophers (notably A.C. Grayling) that a good rationale must be independent of emotions, personal feelings or any kind of instincts. Any process of evaluation or analysis, that may be called rational, is expected to be highly objective, logical and "mechanical". If these minimum requirements are not satisfied i.e. if a person has been, even slightly, influenced by personal emotions, feelings, instincts or culturally specific, moral codes and norms, then the analysis may be termed irrational, due to the injection of subjective bias.

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