, Volume 40, Issue 3, pp 473-482
Date: 03 Jan 2012

Papineau’s Theoretical Rationality and the Anthropological Difference

Rent the article at a discount

Rent now

* Final gross prices may vary according to local VAT.

Get Access


A common view in philosophy is that the way human beings reason is not only gradually better, but that our way of reasoning is fundamentally distinctive. Findings in the psychology of reasoning challenge the traditional view according to which human beings reason in accordance with the laws of logic and probability theory, but rather suggest that human reasoning consists in the application of domain specific rules of thumb similar to those that we ascribe to some intelligent non-human animals as well. However, this view on human reasoning is unable to explain human accomplishments like technological innovations or scientific progress. David Papineau offers a theory of human theoretical rationality that is consistent with the psychological view on human reasoning but that can also explain how humans sometimes are able to transcend the limitations of their biologically quick and dirty modes of thought and thereby reach a high level of accuracy. Papineau claims that the abilities that constitute theoretical rationality are unique to the human species and thus, that human reasoning is fundamentally distinctive after all. In this paper I am going to discuss to what extent these abilities in fact are unique to our species and whether this theoretical rationality can be called an anthropological difference.