This book addresses issues of defining and measuring the quality of life. Leading philosophers and economists examine recent developments in the philosophical definition of well-being and link them to practical issues such as the delivery of health care and the assessment of women's quality of life. The volume reflects the growing need for interdisciplinary work as economists become more aware of fundamental philosophical questions and philosophers of the importance of linking theoretical enquiries to an understanding of complex practical problems.
This book develops some of the most important themes of Sen's works over the last decade. He argues in a rich and subtle approach that we should be concerned with people's capabilities rather than their resources or welfare.
This paper is about three distinct but interrelated problems: (1) the role 0f rights in moral theory, (2) thc characterization 0f agent relative values and their admissibility in consequ<—:ncc—bascd evaluation, and ( 3) the nature 0f moral evaluation 0f states 0f aihirs.
The importance of business ethics is not contrdicted in any way by Adam Smith’s pointer to the fact that our “regards to our own interests” provide adequate motivation tor exchange. There are many important economic relationships other than exchange, such as the institution of production and arrangements of distribution. Here business ethics can playa major part. Even as far as exchange is concerned, business ethics can be crucially important in terms of organization and behavior, going weil beyond basic motivation.
In the summer of 1997, I was asked by a leading Japanese newspaper what I thought was the most important thing that had happened in the twentieth century. I found this to be an unusually thought-provoking question, since so many things of gravity have happened over the last hundred years. The European empires, especially the British and French ones that had so dominated the nineteenth century, came to an end. We witnessed two world wars. We saw the rise and fall (...) of fascism and Nazism. The century witnessed the rise of communism, and its fall (as in the former Soviet bloc) or radical transformation (as in China). We also saw a shift from the economic dominance of the West to a new economic balance much more dominated by Japan and East and Southeast Asia. Even though that region is going through some financial and economic problems right now, this is not going to nullify the shift in the balance of the world economy that has occurred over many decades (in the case of Japan, through nearly the entire century). The past hundred years are not lacking in important events. (shrink)
In this comprehensive collection of essays, most of which appear for the first time, eminent scholars from many disciplines—philosophy, economics, sociology, political science, demography, theology, history, and social psychology—examine the causes, nature, and consequences of present-day consumption patterns in the United States and throughout the world.
This essay discusses the place of business principles and of moral sentiments in economic success, and examines the role of cultures in influencing norms of business behavior. Two presumptions held in standard economic analysis are disputed: the rudimentary nature of business principles (essentially restricted, directly or indirectly, to profit maximization), and the allegedly narrow reach of moral sentiments (often treated to be irrelevant to business and economics). In contrast, the author argues for the need to recognize the complex structure of (...) business principles and the extensive reach of moral sentiments by using theoretical considerations, a thorough analysis of Adam Smith’s work, and a careful interpretation of Japan’s remarkable economic success. Referring to the economic corruption in Italy and the “grabbing culture” in Russia, he further shows how deeply the presence or absence of particular features of business ethics can influence the operation of the economy, and even the nature of the society and itspolitics. Being an Indian himself, he warns against grand generalizations like the superiority of “Asian values” over traditional Western morals. To conclude, it is diversity—over space, over time, and between groups —that makes the study of business principles and moral sentiments a rich source of understanding and explanation. (shrink)
Two central issues for ethical analysis of equality are: (1) Why equality? (2) Equality of what? The two questions are distinct but thoroughly interdependent, We cannot begin to defend or criticize equality without knowing what on earth we are talking about, i,e., equality of what features (e,g., incomes, wealths, opportunities, achievements, freedoms, rights)? We cannot possibly answer the first question without addressing the second, That seems obvious enough.
I am embarrassed at being placed in the dizzying company of one of the truly great thinkers in the world. The similarities between Mill's ideas and mine partly reflect, of course, his influence on my thinking. But I also discuss some difficulties in taking Mill's whole theory without modification, since there are internal tensions within it. In a paper I published in 1967, I tried to discuss how Mill's willingness to hold on to some contrary positions depended on the nature (...) of his empirical reading of the world. I draw on that diagnosis in commenting on some of the articles here. There are some serious issues of misinterpretation in one of the articles, which I try to clarify. I also comment on Arrow's interpretation of what is involved in the idea of autonomy and on his own way of assessing freedom, and acknowledge the seriousness of the questions he raises about the value of freedom in normative political philosophy. (shrink)
Gary Becker and others have done important work to broaden the content of self interest, but have not departed from seeing rationality in terms of the exclusive pursuit of self-interest. One reason why committed behavior is important is that a person can have good reason to pursue objectives other than self interest maximization (no matter how broadly it is construed). Indeed, one can also follow rules of behavior that go beyond the pursuit of one's own goals, even if the goals (...) include non-self-interested concerns. By living in a society, one develops possible reasons for considering other people's goals as well, which takes one beyond an exclusive concentration on one's own goals, not to mention the single-minded pursuit of one's own self interest. The recognition of other people's goals may be a part of rational thought. If rational behavior may depart from the relentless pursuit of one's own goals, commitment has to be important in a theory of rationality. Furthermore, seeing the role of commitment in human behavior can have explanatory importance in allowing us to understand behavior patterns that are hard to fit into the narrow format of contemporary rational choice theory. Commitment is, thus, important both for practical reason and for causal explanation. (shrink)
How valuable is the market mechanism for practical morality? What is its moral standing? We can scarcely doubt that as individuals we do value tremendously the opportunity of using markets. Indeed, without access to markets most of us would perish, since we don't typically produce the things that we need to survive. If we could somehow survive without using markets at all, our quality of life would be rather abysmal. It is natural to feel that an institution that is so (...) crucial to our well-being must be valuable. And since moral evaluation can hardly be indifferent to our interests and their fulfillment, it might appear that there is nothing much to discuss here. The market's moral standing “has to be” high. (shrink)
In an interesting letter to Anna George, the daughter of Henry George, Bernard Shaw wrote: “Your father found me a literary dilettante and militant rationalist in religion, and a barren rascal at that. By turning my mind to economics he made a man of me”. I am not able to determine what making a man of Bernard Shaw would exactly consist of, but it is clear that the kind of moral and social problems with which Shaw was deeply concerned could (...) not be sensibly pursued without examining their economic aspects. For example, the claims of property rights, which some would defend and some would dispute, are not just matters of basic moral belief that could not possibly be influenced one way or the other by any empirical arguments. They call for sensitive moral analysis responsive to empirical realities, including economic ones. (shrink)
First published in 1973, this book presents a systematic treatment of the conceptual framework as well as the practical problems of measurement of inequality. Alternative approaches are evaluated in terms of their philosophical assumptions, economic content, and statistical requirements. In a new introduction, Amartya Sen, jointly with James Foster, critically surveys the literature that followed the r s1ication of this book, and also evaluates the main analytical issues in the appraisal of economic inequality and poverty.
We live in a world in which the idea of human rights is persistently invoked. However, despite the tremendous appeal of the idea of human rights, it is also seen by many as lacking in foundation. I have argued, particularly in my book The Idea of Justice, that human rights are best seen as articulations of commitments in social ethics, comparable to — but very different from — accepting utilitarian reasoning. Like other ethical tenets, human rights can, of course, be (...) disputed, but the claim is that they will survive open and informed scrutiny.This view contrasts with seeing human rights in primarily legal terms, either as consequences of humane legislation, or as precursors of legal rights, or as pointing towards what should ideally be legal rights. Human rights may well be reflected in legislation, may inspire legislation, and may even serve, in many circumstances, as ideals that demand legislative attention. However, these are ‘further facts’— not the defining characteristics of human rights. (shrink)