David Naor

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Which rationality concept is adequate for policy theories? A Received View Rationality (RVR) concept is found in decision and policy theories. RVR is instrumental, formal and analytic (decomposing). The thesis that ideal RVR is adequate for policy theories can be defended either because RVR is context free rationality (CFR) and hence universally applicable, or because it is especially adequate for policy theories. The first defense is rejected as a corollary of an Arrovian Meta-Theoretic Impossibility Theorem (AMTIT). AMTIT claims that a context-free choice theory adequate for finite multi-dimensional choice structures is impossible. If at all, rationality can be theorized by a multitude of concepts each adequate for some context (or domain). The second defense is rejected following a detailed analysis of the current situation in the policy sciences literature. The case of the Strategic Air Command Basing Study is analyzed and insights are drawn from it concerning its rationality. RVR is not capable to account for the rationality of this case. The case involved a change in the investigated problem design of new objectives and alternatives and the emergence of a novel concept. Two families of extreme rationality concepts are articulated against the background of this case. Context-Free Rationality (CFR) which is an idealization of RVR, and Context-Sensitive Rationality (CSR) stand at opposing poles in terms of ontology, methodology and orientation. The notion of a practice is explicated. A practice contains cycles of deliberation, action and product (these are called 'conduct') and results. Over and above such cycles there are superstructures of traditions and institutions. A heuristic is explicated in contrast to an algorithm along twelve dimensions. The ontology of CSR is practices; its methodology is heuristics; its orientation is synthetic synergistic. The content of the appropriateness of CSR is inherently dependent on states of knowledge and thus it cannot be foretold. The normative force of CSR is related to its expression of that possible intervention of human reason with some particular practice by which the current potential for directing and controlling the practice is exhausted and at the same time a continuous effort is made to enlarge that potential. CSR captures the rationality of the case study and enables conceptualization of policies.



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