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Rational Choice Philosophy as “Scientific Philosophy”

Rational Choice Philosophy as “Scientific Philosophy”

(p.91) Chapter 4 Rational Choice Philosophy as “Scientific Philosophy”
The Philosophy Scare
John McCumber
University of Chicago Press

As a theory of marketing and voting behavior, rational choice theory presupposed free markets and contested elections. Since Marxists did not accept these presuppositions, the theory had to be elevated into a normative account of the human mind as such in order to counter them. This chapter argues that Hans Reichenbach’s The Rise of Scientific Philosophy accomplishes that elevation. Restricting reason to scientific method, it institutes rational choice (among theories) as central to science. In so doing, it accepts all the salient theses of rational choice theory, but views them as components of the properly operating human mind. Excluded from reason, as in rational choice theory, are emotions and history; knowledge is founded on observation, which, as in rational choice theory, is subjected to mathematical procedures. Causal sequences are retained, but are interpreted probabilistically. Morality is merely the imposition of one’s preferences on others; as in rational choice theory, preferences are not subjected to criticism (except when inconsistent). Though Reichenbach claims to begin from an empirically adequate account of science, his account of science attracted early and wide criticism; at least seven of its problematic components can be found in rational choice theory.

Keywords:   emotions, history, ethics, logical empiricism, observation, reason, scientific method, theory choice, volitions

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