The practical syllogism gives an inadequate picture

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The practical syllogism gives an inadequate picture of decision making, both descriptively and normatively. Descriptively, it fails to notice that the decision to eat the cake is crucially influenced by the emotional value of the action of eating the case. Normatively, it fails to see that deciding is a matter of deliberative coherence that has to balance competing goals (e.g., eat something delicious, b slim, be healthy) and to evaluate competing actions (e.g., eat the cake, eat an apple, drink Perrier). On the coherence model of inference, reasoning and inference are very different. Reasoning is verbal and linear, like the practical syllogism and proofs in formal logic. But inference is an unconscious mental process in which many factors are balanced against each other until a judgement is reached that accepts some beliefs and rejects in a way that approximately maximizes coherence. This does not mean that practical and theoretical reasoning should be sneered at. Reasoning is a verbal, conscious process that is easily communicated to other people. People are rarely convinced by an argument directly, but the fact that reasoning does not immediately translate into inference does not make it pointless. Making reasoning explicit in decision helps to communicate to all the people involved what the relevant goals, actions, and facilitation relations might be. If communication is effective, then the desired result will be that each decision maker will make a better informed intuitive decision about what to do. Improving inferences is both a matter of recognizing good inference procedures, such as informed intuition, and watching out for errors that people commonly make. Such errors are usually called fallacies by philosophers and biases by psychologists. Psychologists, philosophers, and economists have identified a variety of error tendencies in decision making, such as overrating sunk costs, using bad analogies, and being overconfident in judgements. Noticing the role of emotional coherence in decision-making enables us to expand this list to include emotional determinants of bad decision making, such as failing to perceive the emotional attitudes of other people. The coherence model of decision-making allows goals to be adjusted in importance while evaluating a decision, but it does not address the question of how we adopt new goals. Millgrm’s (1997) account of practical induction is useful for describing how people in novel situations can develop new interests that provide them with new goals. A full theory of
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decision-making would have to include an account of where human goals come from and how they can be evaluated. People who bas their decisions only on the goals of sex, drugs, and rock and roll may achieve local coherence, but they have much to learn about the full range of pursuits that enrich human lives.
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