Rationality is the characteristic of thinking and acting optimally. An agent is rational if it wields its intelligence in such a way as to maximize the convergence between its beliefs and reality; and acts on these beliefs in such a manner as to maximize its chances of achieving whatever goals it has. This is not necessarily to say that all 'rational decisions' are necessarily the result of a recurring belief, or that, to create a rationally justified solution or decision, you must incorporate a system religious values, but that along with the facts of a realistic situation, your beliefs (meaning morals and principals) must be analyzed to interpret any possible conflict. Any such important decision, to be justified by rationality, MUST be filtered by the said morals and principals. Also, your rational thinking must be the act of your own thinking. Using any other source, such as another human influence in your life, media sources, or even society itself, would compromise your outcome. For humans, this means mitigating (as much as possible) the influence of cognitive biases. Cognitive bias is basically a pattern of judgement based on a deviation of your own understanding. Your judgement can ONLY be based on one of, or a maximum of two resources. 1. Your own mind, and perception of the input of information. 2. Outside your mind. e.g. media, popular influences such as TV personalities, social status or social conflict, and even as far as ignorance of certain parts of the input.
Cognitive bias is not always a negative influence on the process of information in your mind; it can even be a powerful tool in expediting this process, using set mental precedents from other decisions, marking a sort of instinct when it comes to the morals you choose. It is a delicate balance deciding how much influence to allow when attempting to achieve a highly rationalized decision in any case. Cognitive biases are important to study because “systematic errors” highlight the “psychological processes that underlie perception and judgement” (Tversky & Kahneman,1999, p. 582). See our Bias/Cognitive Bias Wiki on this subject: (http://wiki.lesswrong.com/wiki/Cognitive_bias)
Epistemic rationality is that part of rationality which involves achieving accurate beliefs about the world. It involves updating on receiving new evidence, mitigating cognitive biases, and examining why you believe what you believe. Put in a more clear format, (caveat-compressed, as I call it): The kind of rationality which one displays when one believes propositions that are strongly supported by one's evidence and refrains from believing propositions that are improbable given one's evidence.
Instrumental rationality is concerned with achieving goals. More specifically, instrumental rationality is the art of choosing and implementing actions that steer the future toward outcomes ranked higher in one's preferences. Said preferences are not limited to 'selfish' preferences or unshared values; they include anything one cares about.
Putting it all Together
Without specifically going over every aspect of each type of rationality, and detailing the histories and exhaustive supportive theories regarding each, it is important to know that NEVER; not even once, should someone exclude one virtue of rationality when facilitating a rational mind to decide on an issue. Being "theoretically rational" is, indeed a hybrid virtue. It involves sensitivity to not only the two types of rationality, but a multitude of systematic development and implementation of morals and of character to manufacture the most theoretically rational outcome possible.
- What Do We Mean By "Rationality"?
- The Martial Art of Rationality
- Your Rationality is My Business
- Why truth? And...
- All Less Wrong posts tagged "Rationality"