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And the Final Jeopardy Answer Is?

BLIND RATIONALITY -- EMPTY WISDOM!

  •     What's the Question?  In today's talk I will first outline some purported difficulties faced by the "Classical Model" of Rationality and then go on to argue that in order to meet at least some of these difficulties, Rationality must be fortified by Wisdom.  Wisdom, on this account, is a metaheuristic that participates in the creation of the "preference function" that rationality requires in order to be socially applicable.

  • Oh yeah, “the Jeopardy Question” (with apologies to Kant) ...What do you get when you divorce Rationality from Wisdom?

  • Jim Fahey


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Blind Rationality – Empty Wisdom

Jim Fahey

Dept. of Cognitive Science

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute


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Blind Rationality – Empty Wisdom: Preview of the Discussion

  • A. Believing Rationally

    • (i) The standard account of Knowledge and its Problems

      • (a) Paradoxes of Confirmation

      • (b) Paradoxes of Knowing/Believing

  • B. Acting Rationally

    • (i) “The Classical Model” – HumeanMeans-End Rationality

    • (ii) The Rational Choice/Maximize Expected Utility/Rational Actor Model


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Blind Rationality – Empty Wisdom: Preview of the Discussion

  • C. Classical Model’s Purported Shortcomings: Actors Acting Rationally Together

    • (i) Social Cooperation – The Centipede Game

    • (ii) Social Inequality – The Ultimatum Game

    • (iii) Distributive Justice – Rawls’ “Veil of Ignorance”

  • D. Acting Rationally – External Problems

    • (i) Changing the preference function – practical abduction and a misreading of Hume.


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Blind Rationality – Empty Wisdom: Preview of the Discussion

  • E. Wisdom and Acting Rationally

    • (i) Wisdom as the creation of a particularly successful preference function design

    • (ii) Wisdom:

    • THREE ACTION TRAITS and

    • SIX WISDOM SKILLS


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A. Believing Rationally Discussion

  • Knowing About the Worldwe divide intoKnowing That vs. Knowing How(Epistemic Cognition) (Practical Cognition)We focus initially on “knowing that.”

  • Some Platitudes on Knowing That:“To know something you must believe it.”“Knowledge is more than a lucky guess.”“You can’t know something false.”


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A. Believing Rationally (cont.) Discussion

  • In accord with these platitudes, since the time of Plato the starting point for attempts to analyze the nature of “knowing that” or “propositional knowledge” has been the view that:

  • If an entity S knows that some proposition P, then

    • S Believes that P

    • P is Justified for S

    • P is True


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A. Believing Rationally (cont.) Discussion

  • But among the most serious problems for epistemology is What is justification? and attempts to answer this question yield many paradoxes with respect to believing rationally.

  • The Paradox of the Ravens (R. M. Sainsbury)

    • So far all of the ravens I have observed are black. By the Generalization Principle.

    • G: A generalization is confirmed by any of its instances

    • it seems to follow that each of my observations of black ravens supports the claim that

    • All ravens are black.


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A. Believing Rationally (cont.) Discussion

  • But I also have a priori reason to hold the Confirmation Equivalence Principle.

  • E: Logically equivalent statements are confirmed/disconfirmed by identical evidence.

  • The problem is that All ravens are black is logically equivalent to All non-black things are non-ravens and that this is confirmed by the existence of a green frog.

  • So, by G and E, the existence of a green frog confirms that All ravens are black. But how can this be?


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A. Believing Rationally (cont.) Discussion

  • Similarly, Goodman’s Grue Paradox:

  • Given G, my observing of a green emerald confirms BOTH the generalization thatAll emeralds are green, AND the generalization thatAll emeralds are grue, where grue is:

  • Grue = def., [observed by me and green]or [not observed by me and blue].

  • If we assume that there are emeralds that I have not observed, how can my observation of a green emerald confirm each member of this logically inconsistent pair?


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A. Believing Rationally (cont.) Discussion

  • In addition to the foregoing paradoxes of confirmation, we find many other paradoxes of belief/knowledge that provide difficulties for the notion of believing rationally. I list some of these in passing: The paradox of the Surprise Quiz The lottery paradox Gettier type counterexamples …

  • All of these continue to bedevil the notion of believing rationally.


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B. Acting Rationally Discussion

  • The foundation of “The Classical Model” – Humean (David Hume) Means-End Rationality

    • Reason is, and ought only to be the slave of the passions, and can never pretend to any other office than to serve and obey them. … … ‘tis only in two senses that any affection can be called unreasonable. First, when a passion such as hope or fear, grief or joy, despair or security, is founded on the supposition of the existence of objects, which really do not exist. Secondly, When in exerting any passion in action, we chuse means insufficient for the design’d end, and deceive ourselves in our judgment of causes and effects.Where a passion is neither founded on false suppositions, nor chuses means insufficient for the end, the understanding can neither justify nor condemn it. ‘Tis not contrary to reason to prefer the destruction of the whole world to the scratching of my finger (Treatise, p. 415-16).


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B. Acting Rationally (cont.) Discussion

  • Russell sums up this Humean view (incorrectly, I think, but more on that later) in what comes to be thought of as the “Classical Model of Rationality.”

    • ‘Reason’ has a perfectly clear and precise meaning. It signifies the choice of the right means to an end that you wish to achieve. It has nothing whatever to do with the choice of ends (1954, p.8).


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B. Acting Rationally (cont.) Discussion

  • Maximize Expected Utility Theory/Rational Actor/Game Theory Models

  • Formalizations/refinements of the classical model have achieved wide currency. To illustrate, the flavor of these formal constructs, consider a lottery.

  • In general we consider a lottery to be a “better lottery” to the extent that it has a higher payoff and affords a greater chance of winning. This suggests a generalPrinciple of Rational Action.

  • Act so as to maximize the “desire fulfillment” (utility) you can expect from your action.


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B. Acting Rationally (cont.) Discussion

  • Only slightly more formally (R. M. Sainsbury):

  • Where A1, A2, … An are actions, andO1, O2, … On are outcomes of actions andU(O) stands for the Utility of some outcome andEU(A) stands for the Expected Utility of some action,we say

  • EU(A1)=[prob(O1/ A1)*U(O1)]+[prob(O2/ A1)*U(O2)]+ …If we are trying to decide which among a pair of actions A1 or A2 is more rational we calculate the respectiveEU’s for each of those actions and choose accordingly.

  • This, according to the Classical Model, just isRational Action.


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B. Acting Rationally (cont.) Discussion

  • There is no question that the Classical Model and its refinements provide important insight regarding what counts as rational action.

  • If agents:have preferences reflecting their wants;can make tradeoffs among those wants;can maximize utility by choosing actions based on their perception of resources, probable nature of interactions with the environment and beliefs regarding probable outcomes; they can be rational actors in the sense outlined by the Classical Model.

  • And Gintis, for example, argues that, “The rational actor model is ubiquitous because any evolved life form is likely to conform to its consistency conditions over some range of actions.”


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C. Classical Model Shortcomings: Actors Acting Rationally Together

  • But some argue that the Classical Model has its shortcomings and I begin by outlining some of these purported difficulties as they pertain to the “social realm” as suggested by the playing of certain multi-player games.

  • But to provide the Classical Model with even a “shot” at dealing with multi-player games, we must add to the knowledge of the players a kind of common knowledge along the following lines (see Colman).


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C. Classical Model Shortcomings: Actors Acting Rationally Together

  • CKR1. The specification of the game, including the players’ strategy sets and payoff functions, is common knowledge in the game, together with everything that can be deduced logically from it and from CKR2.

  • CKR2. The players are rational in the sense of the classical model, hence they always choose strategies that maximize their individual expected utilities, relative to their knowledge and beliefs at the time of acting. (By CKR1, this too is common knowledge in the game.) (Colman p. 7)


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C. Classical Model Shortcomings: Actors Acting Rationally Together

  • Given this, let’s play Centipede (introduced by Rosenthal (1981) and named by Binmore (1987)


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C. Classical Model Shortcomings: Actors Acting Rationally Together

  • PLAY PROCEEDS AS FOLLOWS:

  • Player 1: Chooses to move one circle across the board or one circle down. If player 1 moves one circle down, then the game is over and both player 1 and player 2 get 0 points. If player 1 moves one circle to the right, then her/his turn ends and player 2 takes over.

  • Player 2: Starting on the second circle, player 2 may move one circle down or one circle to the right. If player 2 moves one circle down, the game ends and player 1 gets -25 points while player 2 gets 35 points. If player 2 moves one circle to the right, then her/his turn ends and player 1 takes over.

  • Player 1: Starting on the third circle, player 1 may move one circle down or one circle to the right. If player 1 moves one circle down, the game ends and player 1 gets 10 points and player 2 gets 10 points. If player 1 moves one circle to the right, then her/his turn ends and player 2 takes over.

  • Player 2: Starting on the fourth circle, player 2 may move one circle down or one circle to the right. If player 2 moves one circle down, the game ends and player 1 gets -15 points while player 2 gets 45 points. If player 2 moves one circle to the right (to the fifth circle), then the game ends and each player gets 20 points.

  • PLAY YOUR GAMES NOW!


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C. Classical Model Shortcomings: Actors Acting Rationally Together

  • It would seem that by a process of “backward induction,” the classical model dictates that the only rational course of action in Centipede is to end the game immediately thereby scoring 0 points.

  • As Colman puts it:

    • Suppose the game has reached the final decision node. Player II can defect down and receive 45 points or continue across and receive 20. A rational player II will obviously defect down. Consequently, at the third decision node, a rational Player I who can anticipate Player II’s reasoning will defect down to receive 10 points rather than continue across and receive only -15 when Player II defects down on the following move. Extending this line of reasoning backwards, Player I will defect down at the first decision node, even in a Centipede with 100 feet and fabulous payoffs dangling from its head and shoulders, in spite of the fact that both players could enjoy these riches by playing more cooperatively (p. 19)


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C. Classical Model Shortcomings: Actors Acting Rationally Together

  • Clearly something is wrong here and in light of this, consider the following:

  • (1) If the Classical Model is an adequate model of rational action, then it adequately models rational social interactions.

  • (2) The Classical Model DOES NOT adequately model rational social interactions.

  • -----------------------------------------------------------

  • (3) The Classical Model is NOT an adequate model of rational action.


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C. Classical Model Shortcomings: Actors Acting Rationally Together

  • In further support of the view that the Classical Model fails to address crucial features of social rationality, consider the Ultimatum Game.


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C. Classical Model Shortcomings: Actors Acting Rationally Together

  • (I follow Gintis’s account)

    • In the ultimatum game, under conditions of anonymity, two players are shown a sum of money, say $10. One of the players, called the “proposer,” is instructed to offer any number of dollars, from $1. to $10., to the second player, who is called the “responder.” The proposer can make only one offer. The responder, again under conditions of anonymity, can either accept or reject this offer. If the responder accepts the offer, the money is shared accordingly. If the responder rejects the offer, both players receive nothing. Since the game is played only once and the players do not know each other’s identity, a self-interested proposer will offer the minimum possible amount, $1. and this will be accepted.


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C. Classical Model Shortcomings: Actors Acting Rationally Together

  • But when actually played, the self-interested outcome almost never obtains.

  • Cross cultural tests …(results reported)

  • It seems that we have empirical evidence based on human behavior from across the Globe that purely self-interested behavior in social interactions is irrational -- or that most people are irrational …


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C. Classical Model Shortcomings: Actors Acting Rationally Together

  • Finally, results such as those obtained in the Ultimatum Game suggest that we should look at such notions as Distributive Justice from the standpoint of social rationality. In this vein, consider John Rawls’s discussion of distributive justice principles in terms of the “Veil of Ignorance”

  • What are the general principles we should employ to provide a rational distribution of the goods and services of a society?


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C. Classical Model Shortcomings: Actors Acting Rationally Together

  • Rawls proposes that we adopt the principles we would choose from behind the veil of ignorance.

  • Rawls suggests that we each think of ourselves as being ignorant of:

    • One’s place in society, one’s class, sex or social position;One’s talents/abilities, intelligence, strength, vitality …One’s specific wants, desires, beliefs, …

  • All I know about myself is that I prefer more social goods than less and that I will not make spiteful choices based on envy. Moreover, I do know, in general, about the productive capacities of my society.


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    C. Classical Model Shortcomings: Actors Acting Rationally Together

    • Rawls argues that from behind his veil of ignorance, two principles of distributive justice will be chosen.

    • DJ1. Equality in the assignment of basic rights and duties;

    • DJ2. Social and economic inequalities, are just only if they result in compensating benefits for everyone (in particular, for the least advantaged members of society).


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    C. Classical Model Shortcomings: Actors Acting Rationally Together

    I would argue that empirical results such as those regarding the Ultimatum Game show that some principles along the lines of those suggested by Rawls are accepted by humans as being necessary constituents of any theory of rationality that hopes to account for “social rationality.”


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    D. Acting Rationally: Together An External Problem

    • ARG. (i) Consider Russell’s claim that

      • ‘Reason’ has a perfectly clear and precise meaning. It signifies the choice of the right means to an end that you wish to achieve. It has nothing whatever to do with the choice of ends (1954, p.8).

  • I suggested earlier that this quote from Russell does not in fact capture Hume’s view on the relation between reason and desire. Here is the small print that we passed over earlier in our quote from Hume.


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    D. Acting Rationally: Together External Problems

    • … ‘tis only in two senses that any affection can be called unreasonable. First, when a passion such as hope or fear, grief or joy, despair or security, is founded on the supposition of the existence of objects, which really do not exist. Secondly, When in exerting any passion in action, we chuse means insufficient for the design’d end, and deceive ourselves in our judgment of causes and effects.


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    D. Acting Rationally: Together External Problems

    • Assume we can interpret the Classical Model as making the claim that each of us has a kind of preference function (a kind of belief, desire, commitment function) that exhibits the same general form. The kind of preference function that the Classical Model would favor would NOT be one that would allow that reason could provide the basis for changing my preference function.


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    D. Acting Rationally: Together External Problems

    • But even Hume would not agree. Note that Hume points out that there are conditions under which reason can provide the causal impetus for a change of passion. If my reasoning reveals that a purported object that caused my passion does not in fact exist, then my passion may quickly vanish. (If I discover that what I thought was a snake was in fact a rope, my desire to leave the room may disappear in a trice.)


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    D. Acting Rationally: Together External Problems

    • Likewise, if I have come to desire becoming wealthy as a result of my belief that I have inherited an Aladdin's lamp, then when I find through reasoned investigation that there is no resident genie, my desire for wealth may well melt away.

    • In each of these cases, through an exercise of reason, I have achieved a resulting change in passion. Such exercises I call practical abduction --a change in passion caused by an exercise of reason.


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    D. Acting Rationally: Together External Problems

    • So in sum, ARG. (i) is an argument that Reason does have a role to play in the changing of my passional nature, a process that I call practical abduction (see Millgram). And this too calls into question the sufficiency of the Classical Model.


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    E. Wisdom and Acting Rationally Together

    • But if we can cause our preference functions to change by means of practical abduction, that is, if we have self- programmable preference functions, then perhaps we should look to see what kinds of preference functions have proved to be particularly successful and try to cause ourselves to exemplify such functions. Toward this end, we could not do better than look at the nature of the preference functions of the people we deem wise.


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    E. Wisdom and Acting Rationally Together

    • What is a wise person and what is the nature of the wise preference function they exercise?

    • There is no easy answer to these questions but tentatively our account of “wisdom” is as follows:


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    E. Wisdom and Acting Rationally Together

    • FIRST: Wise persons exhibit the followingThree Action Traits --

      They are:

    • Caring:

    • Empathetic:

    • Moral


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    E. Wisdom and Acting Rationally Together

    • SECOND: Wise persons exhibit theSix Wisdom Skills --

    • (1) A wise person is able to Imagine & Consider Many Values-Feelings-Perspectives --

      • A process of “wise acting” requires that one be able to imaginatively consider the problem from the standpoints of many of those who will be most greatly affected by the course of action that is chosen.


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    E. Wisdom and Acting Rationally Together

    • Six Wisdom Skills (cont.) --

    • (2) A wise person is able to Relate Local to Global, Immediate to Long-term as regards the effects of her/his actions --

      • A process of “wise acting” requires that one consider not only the immediate and local effects of the solution chosen but also the “ripple effects” to which the solution might give rise.


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    E. Wisdom and Acting Rationally Together

    • Six Wisdom Skills (cont.) --

    • (3) A wise person is able to Engage in Critical Reflection Regarding Her/His Own Values-Feelings-Perspectives

      • A process of “wise acting” requires that one be willing to reflect on one’s own values-feelings-perspectives and, if necessary, change them in light of the evidence one acquires.


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    E. Wisdom and Acting Rationally Together

    • Six Wisdom Skills (cont.) --

    • (4) A wise person is able to Acknowledge the Imperfections of Both Self & Others --

      • A process of “wise acting” requires that one understand that it is possible that “evidence” can lead both oneself and others astray and, moreover, that “new evidence” can controvert old. Thus a process of “wise problem solving” encourages a certain measure of personal humility as well as tolerance towards those with whom one disagrees -- not always, but in many instances.


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    E. Wisdom and Acting Rationally Together

    • Six Wisdom Skills (cont.) --

    • (5) A wise person is able to Prioritize What Is Important in Relating Self to Society, Environment & the World –

      • A process of “wise acting” requires that one comes to understand that since actions do not take place in a vacuum,” the wise solutions to problems often have many effects -- some good some bad. Having a “wise prioritization” of these outcomes in mind is thus an important aspect of “wise acting.” Moreover, arriving at such a “wise prioritization” should be a matter of ‘wise acting” in its own right.


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    E. Wisdom and Acting Rationally Together

    • Six Wisdom Skills --

    • (6) A wise person Aims at Worthwhile Living --

      • A process of “wise acting” always has as its ultimate aim that of “worthwhile living.” What does this come to? We analyze ‘worthwhile’ as implying that something is

        • Being worth the time spent; of sufficient value to the effort -- (Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 5th ed.)

      • Moreover, we require that if something is worthwhile, it is worthwhile in the best sense. That is, it is both “good for its consequences” and “good for its own sake.”


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    E. Wisdom and Acting Rationally Together

    • In addition, since an actor who is bothWise & Rational must also be a good

    • CRITICAL THINKER

    • The picture we are left with - what we call -

    • CRITICAL WISDOM

    • looks as follows:


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    E. Wisdom and Acting Rationally Together

    • But whatever wisdom is, we argue that it is our faculty of wisdom that supplies the necessary addition to our rational nature that allows us to formulate a preference function that can take us beyond the Classical Model of rationality and thereby allow us to function as Rational-Social-Beings.


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    E. Wisdom and Acting Rationally Together

    Final Questions to consider:

    Is the Classical Model of Rationality all that YOU need to explain your attitude toward the arguments expressed by Bill McKibben in Enough?

    Is Captain Kirk’s behavior similarly explicable (or inexplicable) in terms of the Classical Model?


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