The Normativity of Structural Rationality

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The Normativity of Structural Rationality

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Title: The Normativity of Structural Rationality
Author: Langlois, David Joseph
Citation: Langlois, David Joseph. 2014. The Normativity of Structural Rationality. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University.
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Abstract: Many of us take for granted that rationality requires that we have our attitudes combined only in certain ways. For example, we are required not to hold inconsistent beliefs or intentions and we are required to intend any means we see as crucial to our ends. But attempts to justify claims like these face two problems. First, it is unclear what unifies the rational domain and determines what is (and is not) rationally required of us. This is the content problem. Second, as philosophers have been unable to find any general reason for us to have our attitudes combined only in certain ways, it is unclear why, or in what sense, we are required to comply with these putative requirements in the first place. This is the normativity problem.
My dissertation offers an account of rationality which solves these problems. I argue that the entire domain of rational requirements can be derived from a single ultimate requirement demanding that we not have sets of intentions and beliefs which cause their own failure. This General Requirement of Structural Rationality explains the unity of the rational domain and directly solves the content problem. But it also solves the normativity problem. I argue that whenever we violate the General Requirement we are engaged in a form of criticizable self-undermining. I propose that this is enough to ground the claim that we ought to comply with the General Requirement's demands. This conclusion can be secured as long as we accept the thesis of normative pluralism, according to which there is more than one fundamentally distinct form of normative 'ought.'
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