Rationality is something of fundamental importance to LessWrong that is defined in many ways. Wikipedia calls rationality "the quality or state of being reasonable, based on facts or reason" and goes on to say the term has "different specialized meanings in philosophy, economics, sociology, psychology, evolutionary biology, and political science". We could also say that it is the characteristic of thinking well, or that 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.
Rationality in humans is a delicate thing, threatened by cognitive biases.
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.
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. It can be seen as a form of instrumental rationality in which knowledge and truth are goals in themselves, whereas in other forms of instrumental rationality, knowledge and truth are only potential aids to achieving goals. Someone practising instrumental rationality might even find falsehood useful.
- 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"