Behavioral and Brain Sciences

Short Communication

The limits of individualism are not the limits of rationality

Susan Hurley a1

a1 PAIS, University of Warwick, Coventry CV4 7AL, United Kingdom


Individualism fixes the unit of rational agency at the individual, creating problems exemplified in Hi-Lo and Prisoner's Dilemma (PD) games. But instrumental evaluation of consequences does not require a fixed individual unit. Units of agency can overlap, and the question of which unit should operate arises. Assuming a fixed individual unit is hard to justify: It is natural, and can be rational, to act as part of a group rather than as an individual. More attention should be paid to how units of agency are formed and selected: Are the local processes local or nonlocal? Do they presuppose the ability to understand other minds?