Truth and rationality

27 Jan, 2021 at 11:16 | Posted in Economics | 4 Comments

Explaining Social Behavior: More Nuts and Bolts for the Social Sciences:  Elster, Jon: 9780521777445: Books - Amazon.caLet me conclude the discussion of rational-choice theory by emphasizing again its radically subjective nature

The rationality of beliefs is a completely different matter from that of their truth. Whereas truth is a feature of the relation between the belief and the world, rationality is a feature of the relation between the belief and the evidence possessed by the agent. Although rationality may require the agent to invest in new information, the investment is always constrained by its expected (that is, believed) costs and benefits.


  1. Sadly from an antho perspective its just a pejorative a priori seeking an audience and not a reflection of what humanity has been or is laboring under … sigh …

  2. I am minded of Hobbes’s Leviathan, and his, rather strained, discussion of Errour and Truth. I think the Keynesian point about fundamental uncertainty was anticipated, for instance, by the following:

    “When a man reckons without the use of words, which may be done in particular things, (as when upon the sight of any one thing, wee conjecture what was likely to have preceded, or is likely to follow upon it;) if that which he thought likely to follow, followes not; or that which he thought likely to have preceded it, hath not preceded it, this is called ERROR; to which even the most prudent men are subject. But when we Reason in Words of generall signification, and fall upon a generall inference which is false; though it be commonly called Error, it is indeed an ABSURDITY, or senseless Speech. For Error is but a deception, in presuming that somewhat is past, or to come; of which, though it were not past, or not to come; yet there was no impossibility discoverable. But when we make a generall assertion, unlesse it be a true one, the possibility of it is unconceivable. And words whereby we conceive nothing but the sound, are those we call Absurd, insignificant, and Non-sense. And therefore if a man should talk to me of a Round Quadrangle; or Accidents Of Bread In Cheese; or Immaterial Substances; or of A Free Subject; A Free Will; or any Free, but free from being hindred by opposition, I should not say he were in an Errour; but that his words were without meaning; that is to say, Absurd.”

    He has a whole bit about truth, which seems mostly to be related to “revealed truth”, a kind of backside protection from religious authorities, but the discussion is always interesting.

    • Dark energy is absurd? Hobbes was telling a story that does not have an export warrant that matches current physical observation. “The universe is not only stranger than Hobbes imagined, but stranger than he could imagine …”

  3. I can only conclude that _radical subjective nature_ qua _rational-choice theory_ is a form of self-delusion; a kind of philosophical blindness to _reality_ that blinds one to _truth_. If _truth_ is an experiential reality in which one’s experience is in synchrony with the _actual world_ as it exists in _reality_ then the cost of investment in reality is sincerity, sincerity, and more sincerity and the willingness to follow truth wherever it will lead.

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