Reasoning and Rationality

Colin Allen, Peter M. Todd, Jonathan M. Weinberg

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

2 Scopus citations


The article explores five parts of Cartesian thought that include individualism, internalism, rationalism, universalism, and human exceptionalism demonstrating the philosophical and psychological theories of rationality. Ecological rationality comes about through the coadaptation of minds and their environments. The internal bounds comprising the capacities of the cognitive system can be shaped by evolution, learning, or development to take advantage of the structure of the external environment. The external bounds, comprising the structure of information available in the environment, can be shaped by the effects of minds making decisions in the world, including most notably in humans the process of cultural evolution. The internal constraints on decision-making including limited computational power and limited memory in the organism and the external ones include limited time push toward simple cognitive mechanisms for making decisions quickly and without much information. Human exceptionalism is one of the strands of Residual Cartesianism that puts the greatest focus on language and symbolic reasoning as the basis for human rationality. The invention of symbolic systems exhibits how humans deliberately and creatively alter their environments to enhance learning and memory and to support reasoning. Nonhuman animals also alter their environments in ways that support adaptive behavior. Stigmergy, an important mechanism for swarm intelligence, is the product of interactions among multiple agents and their environments. It is enhanced through cumulative modification, of the environment by individuals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Cognitive Science
PublisherOxford University Press
ISBN (Electronic)9780199940967
ISBN (Print)9780195309799
StatePublished - May 1 2012


  • Ecological rationality
  • Human exceptionalism
  • Individualism
  • Reasoning and rationality
  • Residual cartesianism
  • Social rationality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Arts and Humanities


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