Frederick Kroon 96, Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Auckland, “Deterrence and the Fragility of Rationality”, Ethics, Vol. 106, No. 2 (Jan., 1996), pp. 350-377, JSTOR
I take it that from the point of view of the early proponents of nuclear deterrence this would not be a concession of any worth. They didn't just think that nuclear deterrers were doing something that happened to be rational (and even moral); they thought that in the specified circumstances nucleardeterrers were acting the part of properly rational agents, that nuclear deterrers were doing what a fully rational agent would be doing if put in the same difficult situation, despite the monstrousness of what was threatened. Call this kind of position an "agent-rationalist" view of nuclear deterrence. More precisely, agent-rationalists about nuclear deterrence are those who think that it is not only the act of threatening retaliation-in the sense of conditionally intending it-that is fully rational in the specified circumstances; the agent who threatens retaliationin these circumstances can also be fully rational, despite the fact that what she threatens to do is irrational. The contrary position held by Kavka I call an "agent-irrationalist" view of nuclear deterrence. On such a view, deterrers must be irrational in some way, perhaps through having undergone a process of corruption that gives them irrational goals or makes them unable to understand the full implications of what they propose.9 (Although I am mainly interested in nuclear deterrence, the issues, of course, are wider. Thus agent-rationalism and agentirrationalism can also be understood more broadly as views concerning the rationality of agents who face "Special Deterrent Situations" in roughly Kavka's sense; these situations include our nuclear scenarios but also many other possible situations of conflict between agents. While the argument of this article may be general enough to extend to all such situations, I shall continue to focus on the nuclear case.)10 In the same way, we may talk of "agent-moralism" and "agentimmoralism." ¶ Thus agent-immoralism about nuclear deterrence holds that because of the immorality of the retaliatory act, and despite the moral desirability of the threat, no morally good agent can seriously threaten retaliation in the nuclear scenarios described.11 Any agent able to threaten retaliation must have undergone a process of moral corruption, or be affected in some other way by an element of moral imperfection in her nature. (This is again Kavka's view, but versions of the view are held by many others; David Lewis, for example.) ¶ These various positions are not, of course, exhaustive. Take rationality again. Some theorists think that there can be no situation in which threatening nuclear retaliation is rational.12 If so, no fully rational agent could be a nuclear deterrer. And in the mid-1980s (but no longer) David Gauthier held that because threatening retaliation is sometimes clearly rational, it would ipso facto be rational in those cases for a deterrer to act on her retaliatory threats should deterrence fail. If so, agent-irrationalist arguments can't get a toehold, and we can no longer deny full rationality to nuclear deterrers. While I reject these various positions, they are not the direct concern of this article. 13 ¶ The debate I am presently interested in is between agent-rationalists and agent-irrationalists, agent-moralists and agent-immoralists: philosophical opponents who all accept that threatening (nuclear) retaliation can be rational and moral where acting on the threats is not. ¶ In this article I am mainly concerned to defend agent-rationalism about nuclear deterrence against its irrationalist critics. That is, my main goal is to show that we can coherently regard both of the following rationality claims as true: not only is the act of forming and maintaining deterrentconditional intentions perfectly rational in the nuclear circumstances envisaged, but in addition forming and maintaining such intentions is something that rational agents are fully capable of, despite their knowing that such intentions, conditionally enjoin an irrational act. I thereby take myself to be defending nucleardeterrence against an important and persuasive philosophical attack on the character of those running the policy.¶By implication, however, I will also be defending an agent-moralist view of nuclear deterrence and hence defending deterrence against another kind of attack on the character of those running the policy. For the moral case turns out to be similar and in some ways easier. ¶ Although there are conclusive reasons of a moral kind against applying a nuclear sanction should deterrence fail, I claim that broadly the same kind of argument can be used to show that a rational and moral agent is nonetheless able to form and have the relevant conditional intentionto apply such a sanction. And nothing, as far as I can see, would restrict this conclusion very strongly to certain favored accounts of morality, such as some version of consequentialism. While agentmoralism is not the focus of this article, I hope to say enough to justify these claims. ¶ Why suppose for a moment that rational agents cannot form and sustain such deterrent intentions? I can think of five more or less seductive arguments to this effect, some reconstructed from the literature on the topic, others independently plausible. All are based directly or indirectly-on the content of the conditional intentions contemplated and on the implications for a rational agent who contemplates such intentions. Recall the problem. Because of what any such intention enjoins, we allegedly have a circumstance where an agent satisfies the following conditions: P: PI, the agent is (fully) rational; P2, she conditionally intends to do something E if a certain event C happens; P3, it is clear to her that if C should happen it would be irrational to do E. ¶This triad of conditions appears inconsistent, however, which suggests that no rational agent can have such a conditional intention in full knowledge of what it involves. But then neither, it seems, can a rational agent form such an intention in full knowledge of what it involves; deterrence can't even get started unless the deterring agent first becomes irrational. ¶ Different agent-irrationalist arguments provide different ways of showing how the tension inherent in (P) argues for agent-irrationality. But before I begin my survey of these arguments, let me say a bit more about the idea of agent-rationality itself. The substance of my critique will be that, one way or another, agent-irrationalist arguments variously mislocate or misdescribe aspects of this idea. ¶What follows is supposed to be uncontentious. To describe an agent as rational is to characterize the agent as epistemically responsible: such an agent responds to evidence in the right sort of way, believing propositions when the evidence supports them (but at any rate not when it is cognitively unsafe to adopt such beliefs) and deciding how to act by taking proper account of her desires and beliefs regarding the likely outcome of actions. This is clearly a dispositional notion, for someone is correctly described as rational to the extent that she is disposed to function in this way, not just that perchance she always does function in this way. But note that the disposition is characterized in terms of a more local rationality: options open to a person have the property of being rational if they are supported by her evidence in the right sort of way or if they reflect her beliefs and desires in the right sort of way.
AT: Psych Explains
Psychology can’t explain nuclear weapons
Gusterson 98 – Hugh Gusterson, Professor of Anthropology and Sociology at George Mason University, 1998, Nuclear Rites: A Weapons Laboratory at the End of the Cold War, p. 12
The psychological critique of the arms race also tends to confound psychological and social processes. Although some psychologists embroider their analyses with caveats that individual and collective processes are different, the incessant discussion of international relations in terms of individual pathology and the frequent comparisons of national politics and personal psychology encourage the reduction of national and international politics to individual psychology. However, the individual and the national are not only, as the jargon of political science would phrase it, different "levels of analysis"; they also involve different processes requiring different kinds of analysis. Understanding the psychology of Edward Teller, the "father of the hydrogen bomb," may illuminate the arms race, but it does not explain it.23 Although institutional processes are enmeshed with individual psychological processes, neither kind of process can be reduced to the other, and societies cannot be analyzed as if they were giant personalities. In this book, proceeding more in the spirit of Emile Durkheim than of Sigmund Freud, I show how institutions and processes of cultural production act on individuals to produce certain normative structures of feeling while at the same time I try to respect the partial autonomy of individual psychological processes.24