The Idea of Justice

Although famous as an economist, Amartya Sen is no less distinguished as a philosopher. In this he is far from unique. The same went for the founding father of economics, Adam Smith. But in these days of increased academic specialization the combination of philosopher and economist is rarer than once it was. Moreover the philosophical contributions of contemporary economists, such as they are, tend to be relatively narrow. Some, notably John Harsanyi and Thomas Schelling, are rightly lauded by philosophers for helping to illuminate what Hegel called ‘the cunning of reason’ – the strange twists, loops, and blind alleys that obstruct or divert us, individually or collectively, in the pursuit of value. When it comes to the identification of the value to be pursued, on the other hand, it is harder to think of recent economists who have done important work. The preference-based theory of value treated as axiomatic by many economists is regarded as comic by many moral philosophers, even those with otherwise consilient utilitarian leanings. To break loose from the preference-based theory of value, while continuing to carry credibility for pioneering work in economics, takes a person of truly exceptional imagination, discipline, and versatility
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Fabienne Peter (2009). Rawlsian Justice. In Paul Anand, Prastanta Pattanaik & Clemens Puppe (eds.), The Handbook of Rational and Social Choice. Oxford University Press 433--456.
Amartya Sen (2009). The Idea of Justice. Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.

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