Toward a Unified Account of Rationality
in Belief, Desire, and Action
University of Michigan
We are causal beings, situated in the natural world, but also—we tell ourselves—rational beings, beings capable of acting for reasons. But how is acting for a reason possible in a world of causes? This long-standing problem has awakened new interest in ethics and the theory of action, but, unfortunately, many "top down" accounts appear to lead to problems of regress, or posit, in effect, a rational homunculus. I propose a "bottom up" approach to the question, based upon an account of how it is possible to be practically attuned to reasons to believe and desire. This involves giving a new account of the nature of belief and desire, and linking it to current research in empirical psychology. What emerges a more unified picture of belief and desire, and how they are involved in learning and the regulation of behavior.
Thursday, March 3rd, 4:30 p.m.