Rationality, Reason, and Formal Rules: Reflections from the Cold War


What can it mean to be rational, especially in a world that seemed to be on the brink of thermonuclear destruction? During the Cold War, this fundamental question engaged the sharpest minds. Which theories of rationality could be invoked to explain human behavior, especially in the domains of international relations, war, and military strategy? And could one develop theories also for the resolution of political problems, thus providing clear normative guidance? Could the rules be given an axiomatic structure and applied to various domains of science and society in a strictly determinate fashion? Today’s fragmentation in the study of rationality undermines the Cold War hope for a unified concept of rationality. This also reveals how more traditional notions of “reason”, understood as mindful deliberation over when and how to apply a rule, have returned to the scene.
This is a fantastic lecture by Thomas Sturm (a contributor to the equally-fantastic book How Reason Almost Lost Its Mind: The Strange Career of Cold War Rationalitywhich has been quite important to my work as of late) is part of the ongoing series Algorithmic Regimes and Generative Strategies, organized by Konrad Becker’s World Information Institute. Definitely stuff to check out!
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