The Asian Disease Problem and the Ethical Implications Of Prospect Theory

Noûs (forthcoming)
Authors
Daniel Guevara
University of California, Santa Cruz
Abstract
We discuss the bearing of Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky's Prospect Theory on some central issues in ethics. It has been argued that the theory provides a better explanation of our intuitive responses to some important ethical decision cases—like some famous cases put by Philippa Foot and others—than traditional and widely acknowledged ethical principles do. In this way, Prospect Theory contributes to the new wave of skepticism, emanating from the social sciences, about the role of intuitive judgments in ethical theory and philosophy more generally. We focus on Kahneman and Tversky's famous Asian Disease Problem. We show that the case fails to support Prospect Theory over traditional ethical theory as an explanation of the most common intuitive responses to the case, and, moreover, fails as an account of the most common intuitive responses to Foot's famous trolley case and related cases. We maintain that careful critical attention to all these cases shows that Prospect Theory has not made a successful incursion into ethics, whatever it may have established about non-ethical decision-making.
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DOI 10.1111/nous.12227
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Character.Maria Merritt, John Doris & Gilbert Harman - 2010 - In John Doris (ed.), The Moral Psychology Handbook. Oxford University Press.
Philosophical Intuitions.Mark Fedyk - 2009 - Studia Philosophica Estonica 2 (2):54-80.

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