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 [email protected]


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?