The Project

The Cognitive Irrationality Project is a project led by Prof. Dr. Anne Meylan at the University of Zurich (Switzerland).

The project is funded by the National Swiss Foundation (SNF) and  started in September 2015 at the University of Basel until it moved to the University of Zurich in August 2018.  The project also involves two PhD students: Marie van Loon and Melanie Sarzano writing their thesis under the supervision of Prof. Meylan.

The Cognitive Irrationality Project’s general purpose is to offer an account of cognitive irrationality. It is articulated around three subprojects.

First Subproject: Mapping the Territory
The first subproject aims at distinguishing cognitive irrationality from other similar but presumably distinct normative properties such as being unjustified, being biased, being unreasonable. It also aims at clarifying the relations between rationality and irrationality and the connection between irrationality and the absence/presence of reasons.

Second Subproject: What Goes Wrong
This part of the project focuses on the idea that there is always something going wrong when a belief qualifies as irrational, that somehow, irrationality constitutes a cognitive failure. The question in need of answer is then: what exactly goes wrong and at what stage does this failure occur? Relying on cases of pathological (delusions) and non-pathological cognitive irrationality (self-deception, wishful thinking), the project will explore the question whether the wrongness in question is not due to the role that certain hedonic considerations play in the formation of these forms of irrationality.

Third Subproject: Blameworthiness
The third part of the project aims at clarifying the conditions under which one is responsible and blameworthy for one’s irrational beliefs. While it might seem intuitive to blame someone for their self-deceptive beliefs, it seems unfair to behave analogously towards a person suffering from a pathological form of irrationality such as the Cotard delusion. We also expect that the understanding of what is responsible for this other intuitive difference between non-pathological and pathological cases of irrationality will allow us to cast new light on the conditions under which a subject is responsible for her belief in general.

Read the project.