Abstract for Proust’s talk

Philosophers have long equated rationality with a capacity involving deliberation and strategy. Against this view, it has been emphasized that rationality has to do with one’s ability to achieve given goals within the limits imposed by given conditions and constraints. Rationality, then, is based on a principle of economy that governs the trade-off between expended effort, temporal constraints, and anticipated outcomes. It is arguable, on the basis of current experimental evidence, that this trade-off has shaped three action systems. In the impulsive system, an emotional trigger rapidly selects motor skills at little cognitive cost in order to prevent danger or to seize an unexpected opportunity. In the habitual system, a given instrumental plan of action is automatically selected in order to respond to a contextualized and recurring goal, again at a small cost. In the strategic system, activated for higher payoffs, distant non-recurrent, complex goals mobilize a cognitively demanding hierarchy of preferences, beliefs and inferences. Such tripartition will be shown to extend to cognitive actions, i.e. actions whose goals are of an informational or an epistemic nature. The representations underlying each system of cognitive action will be discussed. This will lead us to explore whether rational decision can be enhanced by fostering a specific interplay between the systems involved in a given context of action.