Government 40 Lecture 3 Rationalist theories

Government 40 Lecture 3 Rationalist theories - Government...

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Government 40 Lecture 3 Rationalist theories I. Introduction A. What is rationality? B. Treating the state as a unitary rational actor C. Rational actors within a nation II. What is rationality? A. Was Hitler rational? Are suicide bombers rational? Genocide of Jews, determination to kill or punish, these are goals or goal associated behavior. Some goals do not make sense to us because we do not share them. That is not how we will use the term rational because it leads to the conclusion that people who do not want something that makes sense to us will behave in ways that we cannot understand and cannot effect. There can be no useful interaction with them. That implication does not appear always to be correct. Hitler’s government did not use poison gas against cities or armies because it was told that if it did, it would be attacked with poison gas. Israel and Hezbollah have experienced periods of peace because certain limits to behavior were established and observed. B. Rationality is not a goal, but a way of making decisions. It is purposeful, goal oriented. It makes sense if you understand what the actor wants. It is not internally contradictory: you do not try to get A and the opposite of A at the same time. But not all purposeful activity is rational. A very young child will try very hard to get a toy and then immediately lose interest and seek something else. A person with multiple personalities will be purposeful in one way, and then purposeful in another. Since we are interested in observations about behavior that hold true over time, this kind of purposeful but totally unpredictable behavior is a problem for us in developing theories. C. So were are interested in a definition of rationality that explains patterns of behavior that hold true over time. 1. For that reason, our first requirement of rationality is that rational actors have stable goals. They want the same thing tomorrow as they do today. 2. Because no one wants only one thing, we insist that if you must be stable in how you rank them: A then B then C today and tomorrow, and A more than C. 3.
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This note was uploaded on 03/07/2012 for the course GOV 40 taught by Professor Stevenrosen during the Spring '10 term at Harvard.

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Government 40 Lecture 3 Rationalist theories - Government...

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