Abstract

The pre-Bratman orthodoxy classifies as instrumentally rational any agent who, in light of her beliefs, chooses in each particular occasion the action that best satisfies her desires. Bratman argues that such views are incomplete given the facts about our limited rationality; they do not take account of the importance that future-directed intentions have in the lives of agents of limited resources. According to Bratman, no theory of instrumental rationality is complete if we do not add to it rational principles governing future-directed intentions. But once we put this way we realize that Bratman’s argument is not primarily directed against belief-desire psychology, or any view that connects desires with reasons. Bratman’s arguments should work against any view of instrumental rationality that does not provide a proper place for future-directed intentions. I argue that this conclusion is incorrect; future-directed intentions play no role in the theory of instrumental rationality. I argue, however, that Bratman was right to reject previous views of the nature of instrumental rationality. Such views relied on an overly narrow conception of action, and, consequently, on an inadequate understanding of the principle of instrumental reasoning. A proper understanding of the principle of instrumental reasoning shows that we can dispense with Bratman’s two tier model or any intention specific requirements of instrumental rationality.