The formalizing of self-interest as an economic principle was largely the work of Francis Edgeworth. It is sometimes wrongly traced back to the. It is worth considering how this approach compares with Amartya Sen’s arguments about “commitments” in “Rational Fools” (link). Sen’s essay. PDF | This article presents a critique of Amartya Sen’s article “Rational Fools”.

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Understanding Society: Amartya Sen’s commitments

Thus, an intelligent student not only becomes like homo economicus, but becomes a homo economicus who shakes his head at the “irrational fools” who believe in ethical preferences or a non-utility-based notion of justice. The systematic misapplication of the homo economicus assumption to areas where it foold not appropriate may have quite negative consequences.

John Harsanyi suggests a distinction between ethical preferences and subjective preferences.

Email required Address never made public. I have tried to show why this change is necessary and why the consequences may well be serious. I prefer it when the people I care about are happy, srn so I might give up some amount of my self-interested happiness in exchange for the happiness I feel when they are happy.

No keywords specified fix it. Thus, the distinction between these two types of preferences does solve some problems, but it does not solve all the shortcomings of the economic theory of utility and the strict utility maximizing assumption. A further finding by the same research team found that “students generally show a pronounced tendency toward more cooperative behavior with movement toward graduation, but this trend is conspicuously absent for economics majors” Frank, et al.


The first, more intuitive conception of justice is based on impartiality. Amxrtya me of new comments via email. That is, economists learn to maximize individual utility, but put little thought into how those orderings were developed or how there may be other options. Fundamental to nearly all of economics is the economic theory of utility.

Sen cautions not to make the same mistake Edgeworth made when rejecting utility and concluding that rejection implied self-interest egoism. Moving on from Edgeworth, the argument for self-interest and rationality has sometimes been given in the form of revealed preference. The basic idea is that each individual has not just one, but several different preference orderings. And Sen’s point is an important one: In my view the question is no longer open. Brian Barry distinguishes between two notions of justice.

The Creation of Rational Fools

You are commenting using your Facebook account. To make room for the different concepts related to his behavior we need a more elaborate structure.

A Critique of the Behavioral Foundations of. But in fact, several researchers have found evidence “that the ultimate victims of non-cooperative behavior may be the very people who practice it” Frank, et al. The idea of justice as mutual advantage is indistinguishable from this choice. Preference ordering A is what standard economic theory takes to be the only one. But which of the many options does the individual use in any given situation?


Sign in to use this feature. That is, he is being taught that justice is not impartiality, but instead is the justice of mutual advantage. Standard economic theory assumes that A, the personal welfare option, is the one and only preference ordering and that if the individual is rational, it corresponds perfectly to C, the actual choices made. Wednesday, March 21, Amartya Sen’s commitments.

Newer Post Older Post Home. But Sen rightly points out that this construction doesn’t give us a basis for choosing when the two orderings dictate incompatible choices. As Sen puts it. Stanovich – – Thinking and Reasoning 19 1: Such results do not prove the cause of this difference in behavior or reasoning, rayional they do provide a very strong suggestion that the non-economists tend to act more in accordance with justice as folos or ethical preferences while the economists act closer to how homo economicus would behave.