The Role and Status of the Rationality Principle in the Social Sciences

  • Spiro J. Latsis
Part of the Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science book series (BSPS, volume 71)


How can we explain and predict human behaviour and, in particular, behavioural regularities in a social setting? Adequate answers to questions of this type have been of interest to influential traditions in the social sciences and in particular to sociology, economics, anthropology, and psychology.2 The main concern of the present paper is a particular type of answer — let us call it a ‘rationalistic answer’ — to the above question. Rationalistic answers have been especially influential in economics, where an elaborate theoretical structure was built on a particular conception of human behaviour. The coherence, elegance and apparent problem-solving ability of the theoretical framework of neoclassical economics is probably responsible for the longevity and relative immunity of the rationalistic approach from incisive criticisms which have been levelled against it in the last few decades.3


Rationalistic Approach Problem Situation Explanation Schema Situational Analysis Soap Bubble 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Alexander, R. D. [ 1975 ]: ‘The Search for a General Theory of Behaviour’, Behavioural Science 20, 77–100.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Aristotle: Nichomachean Ethics (Translated by F. H. Peters, Second Edition, 1884 ), K. Paul Trench, London.Google Scholar
  3. Ashby, W. R. [ 1952 ]: Design for a Brain, J. Wiley, New York.Google Scholar
  4. Donagan, A. [ 1970 ]: ‘Comment’, in R. Borger and F. Cioffi (eds.), Explanation in the Behavioural Sciences, Cambridge University Press, pp. 218–227.Google Scholar
  5. Feigl, H. and Meehl, P. E. [ 1974 ]: ‘The Determinism-Freedom and Body-Mind Problems’, in P. A. Schilpp (ed.), The Philosophy of Karl Popper, I, Open Court, La Salle, Ill., pp. 520–559.Google Scholar
  6. Hayek, F. A. [1967]: Studies in Philosophy, Politics and Economics,University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  7. Hayek, F. A. [ 1973 ]: Law, Legislation and Liberty, Volume I, Rules and Order, Routledge and Kegan Paul, London.Google Scholar
  8. Hempel, C. G. [ 1965 ]: Aspects of Scientific Explanation and Other Essays in the Philosophy of Science, The Free Press, New York.Google Scholar
  9. Latsis, S. J. [ 1972 ]: ‘Situational Determinism in Economics’, The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 23, 207–245.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Latsis, S. J. [ 1974 ]: ‘Situational Determinism in Economics’, unpublished Ph.D. Thesis, University of London.Google Scholar
  11. Latsis, S. J. [1976a]: ‘The Limitations of Single-Exit Models: Reply to Machlup’ The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 27, 51–60. Google Scholar
  12. Latsis, S. J. [1976b1: ‘A Research Programme in Economics’, in S. J. Latsis (ed.), Method and Appraisal in Economics,Cambridge University Press, pp. 1–44. Leijonhufvud, A. [1968]: On Keynesian Economics and the Economics of Keynes, Oxford University Press, New York.Google Scholar
  13. Leijonhufvud, A. [1973]: ‘Effective Demand Failures’ Swedish Journal of Economics 75, 27–48. Google Scholar
  14. Leijonhufvud, A. [19761: ‘Schools, “Revolutions” and Research Programmes in Economic Theory’, in S. J. Latsis (ed.), Method and Appraisal in Economics,Cambridge University Press, pp. 65–108.Google Scholar
  15. Loasby, B. J. [19761: Choice Complexity and IgnoranceCambridge University Press. Machlup, F. [1946]: ‘Marginal Analysis and Empirical Research’ The American Economic Review 36 519–554 Google Scholar
  16. Machlup, F. [1952]: The Economics of Sellers’ Competition: Model Analysis of Sellers’ ConductJohns Hopkins Press. Google Scholar
  17. Machlup, F. [1967]: ‘Theories of the Firm: Marginalist, Behavioural, Managerial’ The American Economic Review 57, 1–33. Google Scholar
  18. Machlup, F. [1974]: ‘Situational Determinism in Economics’ The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 25 271–284. Google Scholar
  19. Mises, L. von [ 1949 ]: Human Action; A Treatise on Economics, Yale University Press, New Haven.Google Scholar
  20. Myrdal, G. [ 1954 ]: The Political Element in the Development of Economic Theory, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA.Google Scholar
  21. Pareto, V. [1899]: I problemi della sociologiaScansano, Tessitori. Reprinted from Revista italiana di sociologiaMarch 1899. Google Scholar
  22. Pareto, V. [19171: Traité de sociologie générale,Payot, Lausanne and Paris.Google Scholar
  23. Parsons, T. [ 1937 ]: The Structure of Social Action, McGraw Hill, New York and London.Google Scholar
  24. Popper, K. R. [19451: The Open Society and Its Enemies,George Routledge and Sons, London.Google Scholar
  25. Popper, K. R. [19571: The Poverty of HistoricismRoutledge and Kegan Paul, London. Popper, K. R. [19661: Of Clouds and Clocks: An Approach to the Problem of Rationality and the Freedom of ManWashington University Press, St. Louis. Google Scholar
  26. Popper, K. R. [ 1967 ]: ‘La rationalité et le statut de principe de rationalité’ in E. M. Classen (ed.), Les fondements philosophiques des systèmes economiques: Textes de Jacques Rueff et essais rédigés en son honneur, Payot, Paris, pp. 142–150.Google Scholar
  27. Popper, K. R. [ 1968a ]: ‘On the Theory of the Objective Mind’ in L. Gabriel (ed.), Proceedings of the XIVth International Congress of Philosophy, Herder, Vienna, pp. 25 —53.Google Scholar
  28. Popper, K. R. [ 1968b ]: ‘Epistemology without a Knowing Subject’ in B. van Rootselaar and J. F. Staal (eds.), Logic, Methodology and Philosophy of Science III, North-Holland, Amsterdam, pp. 333–373.Google Scholar
  29. Popper, K. R. [ 1972 ]: Objective Knowledge, Clarendon Press, Oxford.Google Scholar
  30. Popper, K. R. [19741: ‘Watkins on Indeterminism as the Central Problem of My Philosophy’, in P. A. Schilpp (ed.), The Philosophy of Karl Popper, II, Open Court, La Salle, Ill., pp. 1053–1059.Google Scholar
  31. Rothchild, K. W. [19471: ‘Price Theory and Oligopoly’, Economic Journal 57, 299320.Google Scholar
  32. Simon, H. A. [1955]: ‘A Behavioural Model of Rational Choice’ The Quarterly Journal of Economics 69, 99–118. Google Scholar
  33. Simon, H. A. [ 1956 ]: ‘Rational Choice and the Structure of the Environment’, Psychological Review 63. Reprinted in H. A. Simon, Models of Man, J. Wiley, New York, pp. 261–273.Google Scholar
  34. Simon, H. A. [ 1969 ]: The Sciences of the Artificial, M. I. T. Press, Cambridge.Google Scholar
  35. Simon, H. A. [ 1976 ]: ‘From Substantive to Procedural Rationality’, in S. J. Latsis (ed.), Method and Appraisal in Economics, Cambridge University Press, pp. 129–148.Google Scholar
  36. Thibaut, J. W. and Kelley, H. H. [ 1959 ]: The Social Psychology of Groups, Wiley, New York.Google Scholar
  37. Tversky, A. and Kahnemann, D. [1973]: ‘Judgment under Uncertainty: Heuristic and Biases’, paper delivered at the Fourth Conference on Subjective Probability, Utility and Decision Making, in Rome, September 1973. Mimeographed.Google Scholar
  38. Watkins, J. W. N. [1952]: ‘Ideal Types and Historical Explanation’ The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 3. Google Scholar
  39. Watkins, J. W. N. [1957]: ‘Historical Explanation in the Social Sciences’ The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 8, 104–117. Google Scholar
  40. Watkins, J. W. N. [1970a]: ‘Imperfect Rationality’, in R. Borger and F. Cioffi (eds.) Explanation in the Behavioural SciencesCambridge University Press, pp. 167–217. Google Scholar
  41. Watkins, J. W. N. [1970 b]: ‘Reply’, in R. Borger and F. Cioffi (eds.) Explanation in the Behavioural SciencesCambridge University Press, pp. 228–230. Google Scholar
  42. Watkins, J. W. N. [1974]: ‘The Unity of Popper’s Thought’, in P. A. Schilpp (ed.) The Philosophy of Karl PopperI, Open Court, La Salle, Ill. pp. 371–412. Google Scholar
  43. Watkins, J. W. N. [ 1975 ]: ‘Three Views Concerning Human Freedom’, in Royal Institute of Philosophy Lectures, Volume 8, St. Martin, New York, pp. 200–228.Google Scholar
  44. Wiggins, D. [1975], D. [1975]: ‘Deliberation and Practical Reason’, paper given to the AristotelianSociety on Monday, 27th October, 1975.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 1983

Authors and Affiliations

  • Spiro J. Latsis

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations