Imperfection, Accuracy, and Structural Rationality

Erkenntnis 89 (3):1095-1116 (2024)
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Structural requirements of rationality prohibit various things, like having inconsistent combinations of attitudes, having means-end incoherent combinations of attitudes, and so on. But what is the distinctive feature of structural requirements of rationality? And do we fall under an obligation to be structurally rational? These issues have been at the heart of significant debates over the past fifteen years. Some philosophers have recently argued that we can unify the structural requirements of rationality by analyzing what is constitutive of our attitudes (Lee, 2020; Worsnip, 2018a). It has also been suggested that, in the course of good first-personal deliberation, agents should treat structurally irrational combinations of attitudes as off-limits (Worsnip, 2021). In this paper, I raise a worry for these two theses concerning structural rationality. Roughly, I argue that some imperfect epistemic agents (like us) can be disposed to have structurally irrational combinations of attitudes. Also, when these imperfect agents deliberate, they should not treat structurally irrational combinations of attitudes as off-limits. Given our imperfections, being structurally irrational can very well be the best option we have. More generally, these observations reveal that structural rationality should not always be theorized independently from more “substantive” norms, like responsiveness to reasons or expected value optimization.

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Marc-Kevin Daoust
École de Technologie Supérieure


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