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The importance of commitment for morality: How Harry Frankfurt’s concept of care contributes to Rational Choice Theory


Herfeld, Catherine; Schaubroeck, Katrien (2013). The importance of commitment for morality: How Harry Frankfurt’s concept of care contributes to Rational Choice Theory. In: Musschenga, Bert; van Harskamp, Anton. What Makes Us Moral? On the capacities and conditions for being moral. Dordrecht: Springer (Bücher), 51-72.

Abstract

Using Rational Choice Theory to account for moral agency has always had some uncomfortable aspect to it. Economists’ attempts to include the moral dimension of behaviour either as a preference for moral behaviour or as an external constraint on self-interested choice, have been criticized for relying on tautologies or lacking a realistic picture of motivation. Homo Oeconomicus, even when conceptually enriched by all kinds of motivations, is ultimately still characterized as caring only for what lies in his interest. Amartya Sen has drawn the economists’ attention to a specific blind spot in rational choice theory (henceforth RCT), i.e. the idea of commitment. By starting from the premise that the human capacity to commit is a necessary precondition for moral behaviour, our aim in this paper is twofold: first, we argue that taking the idea of commitment seriously in economics requires an enriched concept of rationality. Second, we reject a Kantian interpretation of Sen’s concept of commitment and argue that Harry Frankfurt’s views about caring can be used to develop the concept of commitment in a direction that is compatible with Rational Choice Theory

Abstract

Using Rational Choice Theory to account for moral agency has always had some uncomfortable aspect to it. Economists’ attempts to include the moral dimension of behaviour either as a preference for moral behaviour or as an external constraint on self-interested choice, have been criticized for relying on tautologies or lacking a realistic picture of motivation. Homo Oeconomicus, even when conceptually enriched by all kinds of motivations, is ultimately still characterized as caring only for what lies in his interest. Amartya Sen has drawn the economists’ attention to a specific blind spot in rational choice theory (henceforth RCT), i.e. the idea of commitment. By starting from the premise that the human capacity to commit is a necessary precondition for moral behaviour, our aim in this paper is twofold: first, we argue that taking the idea of commitment seriously in economics requires an enriched concept of rationality. Second, we reject a Kantian interpretation of Sen’s concept of commitment and argue that Harry Frankfurt’s views about caring can be used to develop the concept of commitment in a direction that is compatible with Rational Choice Theory

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Book Section, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > Institute of Philosophy
Dewey Decimal Classification:100 Philosophy
Language:English
Date:2013
Deposited On:21 Nov 2017 14:26
Last Modified:16 Feb 2018 20:09
Publisher:Springer (Bücher)
Series Name:Library of Ethics and Applied Philosophy
ISSN:1387-6678
ISBN:978-94-007-6342-5
OA Status:Closed
Related URLs:https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-94-007-6343-2_4

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