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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Stanovich – – Thinking and Reasoning 19 1: Newer Post Older Post Home.

I may choose the vegetarian option, not because I prefer it, but because I prefer the world arrangement in which I go for the vegetarian option.

If, on the other hand, we accept that commitment may play a role in decision-making and want to reform utility theory, we need an alternative idea of preference orderings how individuals rank alternatives by desirability that can accommodate it.

Preference ordering B represents “isolated” personal interest and it only includes the utility gained directly from the choice, excluding secondary sources of utility such as sympathy.

The formalizing of self-interest as an economic principle was largely the work of Francis Edgeworth.

This is not enough to conclude that economists are rational fools. After extensive explanation and instruction, participants were to choose whether to cooperate or defect in a one-shot prisoner’s dilemma.

Preference ordering M may be the “moral” option or the preference ordering based on justice as impartiality, foolz or ethical preferences. History of Western Philosophy.

Such results do not prove foolls cause of this difference ratoinal behavior or reasoning, but they do provide a very strong suggestion that the non-economists tend to act more in accordance with justice as impartiality or ethical preferences while the economists act closer to how homo economicus would behave. Rational Fools or Foolish Rationalists?: But defenders of standard economic theory and homo economicus may simply say that this is a practical error, not sn shortcoming of the fundamental principle of utility-maximization.


You are commenting using your Twitter account. By continuing to use this website, you agree to their use. But more significant than this result were the responses that the participants gave when asked what the “fair” investment in the public good would be.

The Creation of Rational Fools

The theory assumes that each individual has a preference ordering and some utility associated with each potential choice. Thus, an actor can be aware of the “right” thing to do and yet be inclined to do another. Preference, Choice, and Rationality: But this theory treats individuals as coherent preference holders who are never subject to conflicting motivations.

There is good evidence that these rational fools, though they have a gools of greater success, are more likely than not to fall victim to their greed through the misapplication of ratiinal own model.

Rational Fools: Amartya Sen’s Critique of Economic Theory | Rgumentative

Thus, gools 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. Libertarianism, Postlibertarianism, and the Welfare State: Commitment is flols subtler phenomenon. So what would happen to an economics student who favors the idea of justice as impartiality amarhya would normally act in accordance with preference ordering M?


It is the personal welfare ordering, which ranks choices based upon how much utility they are expected to bring to the actor. The first, more intuitive conception of justice is based on impartiality.

Sen distinguishes between cases of sympathy and cases of commitment.

Another experiment that compared the behavior of economists to that of non-economists was conducted by Robert Frank, Thomas Gilovich and Dennis Regan. Of course, this complete transformation is an exaggeration.

The Creation of Rational Fools :: Writing Associates Program :: Swarthmore College

Pattanaik – – In Christopher W. You are commenting using your WordPress.

This meta-ranking changes depending on the situation. Second, we can think about the use of pre-commitment devices to combat weakness of will. It is closer to ethical preferences, but ethical preferences are impersonal while actions taken out of commitment are very much inspired by a personal feeling.

I wish I aartya vegetarian foods more, or I wish I cared more about others.

Moving on from Edgeworth, the argument for self-interest and rationality has sometimes been given in the form of revealed preference. Email required Address never made public.