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Title: Regulating reason : rationality, explanation and understanding
Author: Joyce, Thomas
Awarding Body: University of Reading
Current Institution: University of Reading
Date of Award: 2013
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The thesis is an articulation and critique of one particular way of theorising rationality. The central question is whether ascriptions of propositional knowledge to rational agents in explanation of their rational capacities is problematic. My approach to the issue is to generalise the dispute between generalists and particularists in ethics: hence the question 'What is the nature of moral constraints, and what is it to be able to conform to them?' becomes 'What is the nature of rational constraints, and what is it to be able to conform to them?', Initially, a very strong version of the theory under critique is developed by articulating a series of claims, the conjunction of which constitutes a model of rationality. This model is characterised by two thoughts: that rational constraints are laws, and that grasp of rational constraints by rational agents is knowledge of a set of such laws. Most of the claims that constitute the model are very strong, and would not be endorsed by many, if any, contemporary philosophers. Claims of different strengths are distinguished. Claims that rational constraints are codifiable are relatively weak; whereas claims that rational constraints are laws are much stronger. And ascriptions of propositional knowledge come in two varieties, one weak and the other strong. Ascribing psychologically real propositional knowledge in explanation of how rational agents are able to think, speak and act rationally gives rise to pressing objections, and it seems unlikely that satisfactory replies are available. It is therefore a constraint on theories of rationality that they do not endorse such explanatory claims. However, ascriptions of propositional knowledge, be they weak or strong, do not invite the same objections because they only make epistemological claims, and not the strong psychological explanatory claims that I dispute. Intellectualism, thus constrained, survives. But psychological generalism is rejected.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available