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Adding Reasons Up

ECONOMICS AND MIND, Barbara Montero, Mark White, eds., Routledge, 2007

Posted: 12 Jun 2008  

William A. Edmundson

Georgia State University College of Law

Date Written: 2007


This chapter argues that the "maximizing conception" of rationality that economists are criticized for employing is one that moral philosophers cannot well do without. But the maximizing conception, though essential to identifying what reason requires that we choose, seems unsuited to the task of explaining why we choose what we do - even when we do choose as reason requires. In practice, the maximizing conception seems as unenlightening as an explanation of choice as it is hopeless as a decision strategy. The chapter concludes by suggesting that the two-system model of practical rationality that Kahneman and Tversky have pioneered (Tversky and Kahneman 1971) can be seen as a step toward reconciling the normative and positive aims of economics (compare Hausman and McPherson 1994 with Friedman 1953).

Keywords: rationality, aggregation, constrained rationality, duty, obligation

JEL Classification: A1, B4

Suggested Citation

Edmundson, William A., Adding Reasons Up (2007). Available at SSRN:

William A. Edmundson (Contact Author)

Georgia State University College of Law ( email )

P.O. Box 4037
85 Park Place NE
Atlanta, GA 30302-4037
United States
404-413-9167 (Phone)
404-413-9225 (Fax)


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