Rational analysis, intractability, and the prospects of ‘as if’-explanations

Synthese 195 (2):491-510 (2018)
  Copy   BIBTEX

Abstract

Despite their success in describing and predicting cognitive behavior, the plausibility of so-called ‘rational explanations’ is often contested on the grounds of computational intractability. Several cognitive scientists have argued that such intractability is an orthogonal pseudoproblem, however, since rational explanations account for the ‘why’ of cognition but are agnostic about the ‘how’. Their central premise is that humans do not actually perform the rational calculations posited by their models, but only act as if they do. Whether or not the problem of intractability is solved by recourse to ‘as if’ explanations critically depends, inter alia, on the semantics of the ‘as if’ connective. We examine the five most sensible explications in the literature, and conclude that none of them circumvents the problem. As a result, rational ‘as if’ explanations must obey the minimal computational constraint of tractability.

Similar books and articles

On Explaining Political Disagreement.Andrew Mason - 1987 - Dissertation, University of Oxford (United Kingdom)
Rationality and the Social Sciences.James H. Moor - 1976 - PSA: Proceedings of the Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association 1976:3 - 11.
Situational logic and covering law explanations in history.Michael Martin - 1968 - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 11 (1-4):388 – 399.

Analytics

Added to PP
2015-09-01

Downloads
541 (#18,553)

6 months
97 (#8,889)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Author Profiles

Cory Wright
California State University, Long Beach
Iris van Rooij
Radboud University Nijmegen