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category: Philosophy
published: Oct 2008
ISBN:9780195370294

Following the Rules

Practical Reasoning and Deontic Constraint

by Joseph Heath

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0 of 5
0 ratings
rated!
rated!
list price: $95.95
edition:Hardcover
also available: Paperback
category: Philosophy
published: Oct 2008
ISBN:9780195370294
Description

For centuries, philosophers have been puzzled by the fact that people often respect moral obligations as a matter of principle, setting aside considerations of self-interest. In more recent years, social scientists have been puzzled by the more general phenomenon of rule-following, the fact that people often abide by social norms even when doing so produces undesirable consequences. Experimental game theorists have demonstrated conclusively that the old-fashioned picture of "economic man," constantly reoptimizing in order to maximize utility in all circumstances, cannot provide adequate foundations for a general theory of rational action. The dominant response, however, has been a slide toward irrationalism. If people are ignoring the consequences of their actions, it is claimed, it must be because they are making some sort of a mistake. In Following the Rules, Joseph Heath attempts to reverse this trend, by showing how rule-following can be understood as an essential element of rational action. The first step involves showing how rational choice theory can be modified to incorporate deontic constraint as a feature of rational deliberation. The second involves disarming the suspicion that there is something mysterious or irrational about the psychological states underlying rule-following. According to Heath, human rationality is a by-product of the so-called "language upgrade" that we receive as a consequence of the development of specific social practices. As a result, certain constitutive features of our social environment-such as the rule-governed structure of social life-migrate inwards, and become constitutive features of our psychological faculties. This in turn explains why there is an indissoluble bond between practical rationality and deontic constraint. In the end, what Heath offers is a naturalistic, evolutionary argument in favor of the traditional Kantian view that there is an internal connection between being a rational agent and feeling the force of one's moral obligations.

About the Author

Joseph Heath

JOSEPH HEATH is director of the Centre for Ethics at the University of Toronto, as well as professor in the department of philosophy and the School of Public Policy and Governance. He is the author of five books, including The Rebel Sell: Why the Culture Can’t Be Jammed (with Andrew Potter) and Filthy Lucre: Economics for People Who Hate Capitalism. He lives in Toronto.

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Contributor Notes

Joseph Heath is an Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Toronto.

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