Cover: Beyond Optimizing: A Study of Rational Choice, from Harvard University PressCover: Beyond Optimizing in E-DITION

Beyond Optimizing

A Study of Rational Choice

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$65.00 • £54.95 • €60.00

ISBN 9780674434417

Publication Date: 05/02/1989

192 pages


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Economists, political scientists, and philosophers who see the theory of rational choice as the only possible basis for social science have frequently argued that their exploration of the consequences of treating mankind as ‘optimisers’ or ‘rational maximisers’ is no more than a sophistication of our commonsense view that we ought, rationally, to do the best we can. Utilitarians have similarly appealed to the obviousness of the assumption that each of us ought, prudently, to do the best we can for ourselves in arguing that all of us ought, morally, to do the best we can for all of us. Michael Slote deftly and convincingly demonstrates that commonsense finds much that is acceptable and indeed rational in non-optimising behaviour. Moderation is a virtue, and not just because moderation in the short run is Instrumentally optimal in the long run; the person who sticks to her plans without incessantly seeking to improve on them is not irrational—but the optimiser may justly be deplored as a restless, immoderate, and insatiable character. Displaying in argument the same judiciousness and moderation he defends as virtues, Slote does not claim that the divergence between commonsense accounts of prudence and reasonableness and the assumptions of rational choice theory is a knock-down refutation of the latter. He is content to persuade us that an adequate theory of prudential (and moral) rationality must embrace complexities few philosophers have been willing to recognise. He has written a most engaging, thoughtful, and thought-provoking book.—Alan Ryan, Princeton University

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