chapter  7
19 Pages

HOW REASONABLE IS ECONOMIC RATIONALITY?

Rationality is not a topic often discussed around the kitchen table. And yet, it is one of the most basic concepts in social science and economics. It’s the philosophy of human conduct: to do something in a rational manner is to do it for good and cogent reasons, the “good reasons” being not just some reasons but the best and strongest available.1 Finding some reason for doing something that one wants to do is not being rational but is merely to rationalize one’s action. Clearly, in spite of the concept’s philosophical connotation, the ability to act rationally applies to everybody in their everyday lives. Even feelings, or “the reasons of the heart,” are legitimate grounds for rational conduct. Not surprising, it occupies a central place in the quest of understanding Homo sapiens, or what the Greeks called “the rational animal.” What matters is not that we always act rationally, but that, as humans, we have the capacity for reason.