9 (44):1199-1232 (2023
Nudging works through dispositions to decide with specific heuristics, and has three component parts. A nudge is a feature of an environment that enables such a disposition; a person is nudged when such a disposition is triggered; and a person performs a nudged action when such a disposition manifests in action. This analysis clarifies an autonomy-based worry about nudging as used in public policy or for private profit: that a person’s ability to reason well is undermined when she is nudged. Reasoning well is a component of self-guidance, which is an aspect of autonomy and so something there is reason to promote, preserve, or respect. However, a person can reason well when she is nudged: Many of these heuristics are good rules to reason with, and she can be flexible with respect to them when she takes there to be a better way to reason. Along the way, this paper uncovers several design specifications for responsible nudging, and discusses open empirical questions. However, nudging’s being compatible with reasoning well crystallizes a distinct worry about manipulation: that nudge designers can rely on nudged people guiding themselves toward the designers’ own ends. Manipulation of this sort exploits one aspect of autonomy (namely, self-guidance) to undermine autonomy in other respects.