Advertisement

Bounded rationality, scissors, crowbars, and pragmatism: reflections on Herbert Simon

  • Thomas NicklesEmail author
Article
  • 16 Downloads

Abstract

The paper locates, appreciates, and extends several dimensions of Simon’s work in the direction of more recent contributions by people such as Gigerenzer and Dennett. The author’s “crowbar model of method” is compared to Simon’s scissors metaphor. Against an evolutionary background, both support a pragmatic rather than strong realist approach to theoretically deep and complex problems. The importance of implicit knowledge (knowhow) is emphasized, for humans (including scientists working forward at research frontiers), as well as nonhuman animals. Although Simon was a realist in some respects, his work on bounded rationality, satisficing, problem solving, heuristics, models, and scientific discovery mark him as a pragmatist. Indeed, he should be regarded as one of the great American pragmatists, alongside Peirce, James, Dewey, and a few others.

Keywords

Herbert Simon Bounded rationality Models The crowbar model Realism Pragmatism 

Notes

References

  1. Baird D (2004) Thing knowledge: a philosophy of scientific instruments. University of California Press, BerkeleyGoogle Scholar
  2. Dennett D (1995) Darwin’s dangerous idea. Simon & Schuster, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  3. Dennett D (1996) Kinds of minds. Basic Books, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  4. Dennett D (2009) Darwin’s “strange inversion of reasoning”. PNAS 106(Suppl. 1):10061–10065CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Dennett D (2017) From bacteria to Bach and back: the evolution of minds. Norton, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  6. Dewey J (1929) The quest for certainty. Minton, Balch, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  7. Fisch M (1996) General introduction. In: Fisch M (ed) Classic American philosophers. Fordham University Press, New York, pp 1–40 (reprinting of 1951 edition) Google Scholar
  8. Gigerenzer G (1991) From tools to theories: a heuristic of discovery in cognitive psychology. Psychol Rev 98:254–267CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Gigerenzer G (2000) Adaptive thinking: rationality in the real world. Oxford University Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  10. Gigerenzer G (2007) Gut feelings. Viking Penguin, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  11. Gigerenzer G, Todd P, The ABC Group (1999) Simple heuristics that make us smart. Oxford University Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  12. Gigerenzer G, Sturm T (2007) Tools = theories = data? on some circular dynamics in cognitive science. In: Ash M, Sturm T (eds) Psychology’s territories. Erlbaum, Hillsdale, pp 305–342Google Scholar
  13. Gigerenzer G, Hertwig R, Pachur T (2011) Heuristics. Oxford University Press, New YorkCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. James W (1907) Pragmatism. Longmans Green, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  15. Langley P, Simon HA, Bradshaw G, Zytkow J (1987) Scientific discovery. MIT Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  16. Laudan L (1981) A confutation of convergent realism. Philos Sci 48:19–49CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Millikan R (1993) On mentalese orthography. In: Dahlbom B (ed) Dennett and his critics. Blackwell, Oxford, pp 97–123Google Scholar
  18. Newell A, Simon HA (1972) Human problem solving. Prentice-Hall, Englewood CliffsGoogle Scholar
  19. Nickles T (2006) Heuristic appraisal: context of discovery or justification? In: Schickore E, Steinle F (eds) Revisiting discovery and justification: historical and philosophical perspectives on the context distinction. Springer, Dordrecht, pp 159–182CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Nickles T (2018) TTT: a fast heuristic to new theories? In: Ippoliti E, Danks D (eds) Building theories: hypotheses and heuristics in science. Springer, Cham, pp 169–189CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Nickles T (forthcoming a) Do cognitive illusions tempt strong scientific realists? In: González WJ (ed) New approaches to scientific realismGoogle Scholar
  22. Nickles T (forthcoming b) The crowbar model of method and its implications. Theoria special issueGoogle Scholar
  23. Nickles T, McCollum-Nickles G (2002) James on Bootstraps, Evolution, and Life. In: Babich B (ed) Hermeneutic philosophy of science, van Gogh’s eyes, and god: essays in honor of Patrick Heelan, SJ. Kluwer, Dordrecht, pp 361–376CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Norman D (1993) Things that make us smart. Addison-Wesley, ReadingGoogle Scholar
  25. Peirce CS (1934). In: Hartshorne C, Weiss P (eds) Collected papers of Charles Sanders Peirce, Vol. V: pragmatism and pragmaticism. Harvard University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  26. Rescher N (1978) Peirce’s philosophy of science. University of Notre Dame Press, Notre DameGoogle Scholar
  27. Schooler L, Hertwig R (2011) How forgetting aids heuristic inference. In: Gigerenzer et al. (2011), pp 82–107Google Scholar
  28. Simon HA (1947) Administrative behavior. Macmillan, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  29. Simon HA (1955) A behavioral model of rational choice. Q J Econ 69(1):99–118CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Simon HA (1973) The structure of ill structured problems. Artif Intell 4:181–201CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Simon HA (1990) Invariants of human behavior. Annu Rev Psychol 41:1–19CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Simon HA (1991) Models of my life. Basic Books, New York. Reissued by MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, 1996Google Scholar
  33. Simon HA (1996a) Models of my life (reissue). MIT Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  34. Simon HA (1996b) The sciences of the artificial, 3rd edn. MIT Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  35. Stone J (2015) Information theory: a tutorial introduction. Sebtel Press, BerlinGoogle Scholar
  36. Vickers P (2017) Sommerfeld’s miracle: the ultimate challenge to scientific realism. https://thebjps.typepad.com/my-blog/. Accessed 20 Oct 2018

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of Nevada, RenoRenoUSA

Personalised recommendations