Thursday, 26 July 2012


In philosophy, rationality is the characteristic of any action, belief, or desire, that makes their choice a necessity. It is a normative concept about the reasoning in the sense that rational people should derive conclusions in a consistent way given the information at disposal. It refers to the conformity of one's beliefs with one's reasons to believe, or with one's actions with one's reasons for action. However, the term "rationality" tends to be used differently in different disciplines, including specialized discussions of economics, sociology, psychology, and political science. A rational decision is one that is not just reasoned, but is also optimal for achieving a goal or solving a problem.

Determining optimality for rational behavior requires a quantifiable formulation of the problem, and the making of several key assumptions. When the goal or problem involves making a decision, rationality factors in how much information is available (e.g. complete or incomplete knowledge). Collectively, the formulation and background assumptions are the model within which rationality applies. Illustrating the relativity of rationality: if one accepts a model in which benefiting oneself is optimal, then rationality is equated with behavior that is self-interested to the point of being selfish; whereas if one accepts a model in which benefiting the group is optimal, then purely selfish behavior is deemed irrational. It is thus meaningless to assert rationality without also specifying the background model assumptions describing how the problem is framed and formulated.