The practical demand of means-end rationality [electronic resource]
- Luis Cheng-Guajardo.
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- In this dissertation I provide a vindication of the normative requirement on persons to intend and take means to their ends. One basic intuition that we have is the thought that if a person is not intending or taking the means to an intended end of hers, then she is "irrational". Another basic intuition is that a requirement of rationality cannot be true if it simply entails that a person ought to take means to her ends. The tension between these two thoughts leads to the philosophical problem at the heart of this dissertation. That problem is to account for what we take to be a genuine requirement of "means-end rationality" that makes a normative demand on persons. In Part I, I clarify these intuitions and situate the problem within some appropriate constraints. I take as a backdrop very recent work of philosophers whom I call the "Myth Theorists". I show that the Myth Theorists are best understood as presenting those who accept the prevailing contemporary view of the requirement of means-end rationality with a challenge. I present this challenge in what I call the Argument of Superfluity. I show that the advocate of the prevailing view of the normative requirement of means-end rationality supports a "requirement" that appears to have no explanatory work to do in our attributions of "rationality" and "irrationality". I therefore go on to propose an account that allows us to salvage both of our basic intuitions while also incorporating lessons that we learn from the Myth Theorists. On the account that I offer, our decisions and intentions are significant in altering what it is that we have reason to do. Sometimes, but not always, they can determine what it is that we ought to do. The activity of persons therefore has a special significance on my view. The special significance of a person's intentional action is that it is the expression of a person taking something or other to be at least minimally worth bringing about. On my view, a person thereby has at least a pro tanto reason to intend and take the means that she believes are required to realize her end. I argue that satisfaction of the normative requirement of means-end rationality by a person just is the practical expression of her autonomy. In Part II of the dissertation, I distinguish between different conceptions that we have of "autonomy". I also show how two leading contemporary accounts take the normative requirement of means-end rationality to be grounded in the value of what turn out to be different conceptions of a person's autonomy. I argue that one of these conceptions of a person's "autonomy" does not allow us to resolve our philosophical problem while incorporating the lessons that we learn from the Myth Theorists. My account therefore emphasizes the importance of the form of autonomy that is anchored in our understanding of persons as accountable and responsible for their activity.
- Publication date
- Submitted to the Department of Philosophy.
- Thesis (Ph.D.)--Stanford University, 2013.
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