Rationality, reliability, and natural selection

Philosophy of Science 55 (June):218-27 (1988)


A tempting argument for human rationality goes like this: it is more conducive to survival to have true beliefs than false beliefs, so it is more conducive to survival to use reliable belief-forming strategies than unreliable ones. But reliable strategies are rational strategies, so there is a selective advantage to using rational strategies. Since we have evolved, we must use rational strategies. In this paper I argue that some criticisms of this argument offered by Stephen Stich fail because they rely on unsubstantiated interpretations of some results from experimental psychology. I raise two objections to the argument: (i) even if it is advantageous to use rational strategies, it does not follow that we actually use them; and (ii) natural selection need not favor only or even primarily reliable belief-forming strategies

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References found in this work

The Evolution of Rationality.Elliott Sober - 1981 - Synthese 46 (January):95-120.
Epistemic Value.William G. Lycan - 1985 - Synthese 64 (2):137 - 164.

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