Philosophical Studies

, Volume 175, Issue 1, pp 117–140 | Cite as

The property of rationality: a guide to what rationality requires?

  • Julian FinkEmail author


Can we employ the property of rationality in establishing what rationality requires? According to a central and formal thesis of John Broome’s work on rational requirements, the answer is ‘no’—at least if we expect a precise answer. In particular, Broome argues that (i) the property of full rationality (i.e. whether or not you are fully rational) is independent of whether we formulate conditional requirements of rationality as having a wide or a narrow logical scope. That is, (ii) by replacing a wide-scope requirement with a corresponding narrow-scope requirement (or vice versa), we do not alter the situations in which a person is fully rational. As a consequence, (iii) the property of full rationality is unable to guide us in determining whether a rational requirement has a wide or a narrow logical scope. We cannot resolve the wide/narrow scope debate by appealing to a theory of fully rational attitudes. This paper argues that (i), (ii) and (iii) are incorrect. Replacing a wide- with a corresponding narrow-scope requirement (or vice versa) can alter the set of circumstances in which a person is fully rational. The property of full rationality is therefore not independent of whether we formulate conditional requirements of rationality as having a wide or a narrow logical scope. As a consequence, the property of full rationality can guide us in determining what rationality requires—even in cases where we expect a precise answer.


Property of rationality Requirements of rationality Wide/narrow scope Requirement semantics Broome 



I would like to thank Matthew Braham, John Broome, John Brunero, Philip Fox, Olav Gjelsvik, Christian Piller, Franziska Poprawe, Olivier Roy, Attila Tanyi, Jonathan Way, Berislav Žarnić, and numerous anonymous referees for comments on earlier drafts of this paper. I would also like to thank audiences at Bayreuth, Berne, Bucharest, Konstanz, and Rotterdam for helpful discussions of the material presented in this paper. I am greatly indebted to the Swiss National Science Foundation for funding this work.


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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of BerneBernSwitzerland
  2. 2.University of BayreuthBayreuthGermany

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