Minimal Rationality: Structural or Reasons-Responsive?

In Christine Tappolet, Julien Deonna & Fabrice Teroni (eds.), A Tribute to Ronald de Sousa (2022)
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According to a well-known view in the philosophy of mind, intentional attitudes by their very nature satisfy requirements of rationality (e.g. Davidson 1980; Dennett 1987; Millar 2004). This view (which I shall call Constitutivism) features prominently as the ‘principle of minimal rationality’ in de Sousa’s monograph The Rationality of Emotion (1987). By explicating this principle in terms of the notion of the formal object of an attitude, de Sousa articulates an interesting and original version of Constitutivism, which differs in important respects from other extant versions. In this paper, I explore this version of Constitutivism against the background of recent developments in the theory of rationality and make explicit its ramifications for the long-standing dispute over whether the mind is essentially normative. My focus will be on how to conceive of the form of the rationality requirements that attitudes as such must satisfy according to this principle. I argue that, although de Sousa seems officially to endorse a structuralist conception of rationality, according to which these requirements are requirements of coherence, his considerations on formal objects suggest that they are more aptly conceived in terms of a reasons-responsive conception of rationality. I further argue that which of these two readings we choose makes a significant difference to the prospect of vindicating the essential normativity of mind by invoking the principle of minimal rationality.

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Jean Moritz Müller
University of Tübingen


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