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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Added to PP index Total downloads 1, of 2, Recent downloads 6 months 51 7, of 2, How can I increase my downloads? He is taught that rational actors take advantage of people who act “irrationally. Maria Carmela Agodi – – Sociological Theory 9 2: But even if additional motivations are present, claiming that commitment is never even a partial motivation is to say that a non-consequentialist belief is never a reason in itself for action.

Collective action, group mobilization, religious sacrifice, telling the truth, and working to the fullest extent of one’s capabilities are all examples of activity where narrow egoistic rationality would dictate different choices than those ordinary individuals are observed to make.

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Amartya Sen Rational Fools | Oxbridge Notes the United Kingdom

Sen notes that the rejection of utility is not sufficient grounds to adopt self-interest. Under this belief, there is no special reason for acting justly. Find it on Scholar. The characteristic of commitment with which I am most concerned here is the fact that it drives a wedge between personal choice and personal welfare, and much of traditional economic theory relies on the identity of the two.

Edgeworth gets there by rejecting the utilitarian premise that individuals act to maximize the greatest good for the greatest number. After this critique, Sen then begins to build up his alternative vision. Moving on from Edgeworth, the argument for self-interest and rationality has sometimes been given in the form of revealed preference.


As for the economists, one third refused to answer the question or gave complex responses that could not be coded. Philosophy and Public Affairs 6 4: Sympathy involves an individual being linked to others, feeling sad when they are sad and happy when they are happy.

Notify me of new comments via email. You are commenting using your WordPress. After extensive explanation and instruction, participants were to choose whether to cooperate or defect in a one-shot prisoner’s dilemma.

It is simply the choices rationa are actually taken in a given situation. Sen suggests that there is a ranking of preference orderings.

The Creation of Rational Fools

Other economists might object to this formulation on the basis of the fact that second-order preference rankings are more difficult to model; so we don’t get clean, simple mathematical representations of behavior if we introduce this complication. In this view, justice is defined by the agreements that people form while acting in their own interest. The alternative is to think of justice as mutual advantage. Amartya Sen Harvard University. These sorts of meta-preferences mean we can attempt to commit to changing our current preferences and thus bring our individual desires closer to our ethical ideal.

Preference ordering C represents revealed preferences. To make room for the different concepts related to his behavior we need a more elaborate structure. In fact, this tendency to act like homo economicus may only show that economists are rational opportunists and by no means foolish, even if non-cooperative.

So what would happen to an economics student who favors the idea of justice as impartiality and would normally act in accordance with preference ordering M? Peter Ulrich – – Cambridge University Press.

In this sense, sympathy does not upset the basic model of preferences too much, it simply adds a new component.


So let us consider some amartyya that set out to answer the question of how studying economics actually affects cooperative tendencies. This article has no associated abstract. Sen distinguishes between cases of sympathy and cases of commitment. As Sen argues, economic man is significantly worse off because of a failure to recognize these distinctions: Wednesday, March 21, Amartya Sen’s commitments.

Homo rationla, the notion of humans as simple maximizers of individual utility, has been around since the birth of modern economics.

As Sen puts it. This is significant because it focuses attention on a very basic fact: Preference, Choice, and Rationality: Sen thinks that John Harsanyi made an advance on the narrow conception of rationality by introducing discussion of two separate preference orderings that are motivational for real decision-makers: Rational Fools or Foolish Rationalists?: If the knowledge of torture of others makes you sick, it is a case of sympathy; if it does not make you feel personally worse off, but you think it is wrong and you are ready to do something to stop it, it is dools case of commitment.

In theory, each person should free-ride on the efforts of others to preserve the environment, and yet I recycle, eat less meat, bike to work, etc. Market Norms are crowding out Social Norms, and society is poorer as a result. Amrtya, the economics student learns ratilnal for the rational actor, preference ordering M is simply the same as preference ordering A or B.

Or in other words, one’s principles or commitments may trump one’s first-order preferences. Writing Associates Program Home.