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Instrumental rationality recognizes means that "work" efficiently to achieve ends. Value rationality recognizes ends that are "right," legitimate in themselves. These two ways of reasoning seem to operate separately. Efficient means are recognized inductively in heads or brains or minds. Legitimate ends are felt deductively in hearts or guts or souls. Instrumental rationality provides intellectual tools—scientific and technological facts and theories—that appear to be impersonal, value-free means.
Someone displays instrumental rationality insofar as she adopts suitable means to her ends. Instrumental rationality, by virtually any reckoning, is an important, and presumably indispensable, part of practical rationality. However, philosophers have been interested in it for further reasons. To take one example, it has been suggested that instrumental rationality, or some tendency toward it, is partly constitutive of intention, desire, or action. To take another, more important, example, it has been argued that instrumental rationality is not only a part, but a special part, or even the whole, of practical rationality. If so, then according to this thesis, it would not be irrational for her to refuse to act morally on such an occasion. We should note two restrictions on the scope of this article. First, this article focuses on contemporary discussions of the subject, apart from some brief discussions of Hume and Kant. Someone displays instrumentally rationality insofar as she adopts suitable means to her ends. But it is accepted by many of the authors who have written on the subject, and it will help to organize the discussion of the subject matter.