Section IV: the theory of human action: a critical rationalist formulation

This section introduces a theory of human action based on a non-justificationist conception of rationality and leads to a new reformulation of the two action types of value rationality and instrumental rationality that situates these two in one unit act. The use of non-justificational epistemology to define a belief as rational if its premises and inferences are not shown to be false may be applied to rationalize not only the ends of an action but also its means.

Motivated by Kant’s theory of action, I argue that defining the concepts of knowledge and rationality as unfalsified conjectures and beliefs would avoid infinite regress and reveal how the goals and means of an action are capable of being rational. In this sense, the Kantian agency of the rational being is found in his access to critical reason. This non-justificational concept of reason lets us see how critical reason drives human action. Due to the objective knowledge upon which the actor can rationalize the ends and means of his action, we can say that critical reason rather than passion, guides action. With this non-justificational concept of reason in mind, one can no longer say that the unjustifiability of the goals of action by argument or experience is a basis for accounting them as subjective and hence that the action is guided by passions. Thus, non-justificationist concept of reason leads to new ideal types of value and instrumental reason.

The non-justificationist action type of value rationality

In Chapter 6,1 have described how that the ideal type of value rationality applied by Weber and Parsons in the development of their own sociological theory originated in Kant's moral philosophy. In brief, human action is guided by practical reason because of the existence of a universal moral law that individuals give themselves and the respect of which enables them to control their egotistic behaviour. However, the infinite regress causing the inability of Kant’s practical reason to address the free will of rational beings due to their access to reason is also involved in the Weberian and Parsonian ideal types of value rationality.

In contrast to the above-mentioned similarity to the Kantian theory, the non-justificationist concept of knowledge makes a redefinition of value rationality possible. In his critique of Kant’s practical reason, Weber claims that a universal moral law cannot be justified due to the existing plurality of value systems in human societies. Weber’s critique of Kantian practical reason is, however, justi-ficational. Inspired by Durklieim and in order to solve the Hobbesian problem of social order. Parsons (1968 [1937]) accepts that there should one system of value in a given national society and defines the action type of value rationality in terms of the actor’s voluntarily orientation to such a system of values. Thus, the ideal type of value rationality enables Parsons's theory of society to base its claim of a peaceful social order on a unification of the action types of value and instrumental rationality into one unit act. According to this unit act, the actor’s reason allows him to choose one system of values as the ultimate source of his action goals by means of which he can manage his egocentric and instrumental pursuit of selfinterest in a socialization process. Parsons's unified model action is also called the ends-means framework of human action.1

However, even the acceptance of one system of ultimate values in society common to all does not let Kantian practical reason argue that the actor applies reason to internalize the value system in his personality. As argued in Chapter 6, justifi-cationism of the doctrine of practical reason involves the process of socialization in infinite regress. Under these conditions, neither Weber’s nor Parsons's ideal types of value rationality can serve as the micro-foundation for a macro-theory of society to show that social order exists because individuals apply practical reason to drive their actions.

On the other hand, when the separation of justification and criticism takes place at the level of the theory of human action, infinite regress is avoided, and the non-justificational action type of value rationality can provide the theory of society with a proper micro-foundation. The ideal type of value rationality concerns the goals of action, which are rational insofar as they follow universal moral law. From the perspective of critical rationalism, the goals of action are rational provided their ultimate values are establishes on unfalsified moral beliefs. If our moral claims regarding such values can be subjected to criticism, then the action ends can be accounted for as rational although the moral claims are not shown as false. Thus, critical reason is what drives human action by defining rational ends for an action.

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