I attempt a reconstruction of Adam Smith's view of human nature as explicated in The Theory of Moral Sentiments. Smith's view of human conduct is neither functionalist nor reductionist, but interactionist. The moral autonomy of the individual, conscience, is neither made a function of public approval nor reduced to self-contained impulses of altruism and egoism. Smith does not see human conduct as a blend of independently defined impulses. Rather, conduct is unified, by the underpinning sentiment of sympathy.
There has been no systematic study in the literature of how self-deception differs from other kinds of self-distortion. For example, the term ‘cognitive dissonance’ has been used in some cases as a rag-bag term for all kinds of self-distortion. To address this, a narrow definition is given: self-deception involves injecting a given set of facts with an erroneous fact to make anex antesuboptimal decision seem as if it wereex anteoptimal. Given this narrow definition, this paper delineates self-deception from deception as (...) well as from other kinds of self-distortions such as delusion, moral licensing, cognitive dissonance, manipulation, and introspective illusion. (shrink)
Alfred I. Tauber (ed.), Organism and the Origins of Self. Dordrecht, Netherlands: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1991. xix + 384 pp., US$ 110.00 (US$ 25.00 paperback). This is a fascinating book based on a 1990 symposium at Boston University. It promises to change the way one conceives of the organism. The authors start from different specializations but provide a most tantalizing feast of ideas. Richard Lewontin commences the book with a strange foreword. Lewontin submits that the concern with the "self and (...) private identity in modern biology is ... only one manifestation of the ideology of individualism that is a shibboleth of our particular [bourgeois] form of social organization" (p. xix). If this is the case, the reader should stop reading the book and ask for her money back. But I advise patience. Tauber's introduction is a mixture of the history of the medical notion of disease and the advocacy of a dialectical concept of the self as the interpenetration of part and whole. Tauber highlights Elie Metchnikoff's appealing idea of phagocytosis as just one form of the active organism striving to attain harmony among competing cells. (shrink)
This paper proffers a dialogical theory of decision-making: decision-makers are engaged in two modes of rational decisions, instrumental and existential. Instrumental rational decisions take place when the DM views the self externally to the objects, whether goods or animate beings. Existential rational decisions take place when the DM views the self in union with such objects. While the dialogical theory differs from Max Weber’s distinction between two kinds of rationality, it follows Martin Buber’s philosophical anthropology. The paper expounds the ramifications (...) of the dialogical theory in understanding structures of exchange considering assessments of diverse thinkers. (shrink)
Hume and Smith advance different answers to the question of whether sympathy can ever be the foundation of the moral order. They hold contradictory views of sympathy, called here ‘the Fellow-Feeling Paradox’. For Hume, fellow-feeling tends to reverberate in society, leading to the socialization of the individual and even mob (collective) psychology. Hence, sympathy cannot be the foundation of the moral order. In contrast, for Smith, fellow-feeling develops into critical judgment of the emotions/actions, leading to individual moral autonomy even self-command. (...) Hence, sympathy can be the foundation of the moral order. This paper provides a resolution of the two answers. (shrink)
Neo-Darwinism is based on the same principles as the Walrasian analysis of equilibrium. This may be surprising for evolutionary economists who resort to neo-Darwinism as a result of their dissatisfaction with Walrasian economics. As it is well-known, the principle of rationality does not play a role in neo-Darwinism. In fact, the whole (neo-)Darwinian agenda became popular exactly because it expunged the idea of rationality from nature, and hence, from equilibrium. It is less known, however, that the rationality principle is also (...) not central in Walrasian equilibrium analysis. Therefore, if we find that the rationality principle must be central to the analysis of decision making of human and nonhuman organisms, we must advance organomics . Organomics is bioeconomics understood as the use of rational choice to the study of the behavior of human and nonhuman organisms. Organomics offers a different starting point than the one offered by neo-Darwinism. (shrink)
The paper distinguishes between two kinds of products, `symbolic' and `substantive'. While substantive products confer welfare utility in the sense of pecuniary benefits, symbolic products accord self-regarding utility. Symbolic products enter the utility function in a way which differs from substantive ones. The paper distinguishes among three kinds of symbolic products and proposes that each has a distorted form. If symbolic products result from forward-looking evaluation, they act as `prestige goods' which please admiration or, when distorted, as `vanity goods' which (...) satiate pretentiousness. When symbolic products originate from forward-looking action, they act as `pride goods' which satisfy respect or, when distorted, as `deference goods' which indulge pomposity. When symbolic products arise from backward-looking evaluation, they act as `identity goods' which enhance dignity or, when distorted, as `reification goods' which gratify reverence. (shrink)
Abstract There are two kinds of beliefs. If the ultimate objective is wellbeing (util- ity), the generated beliefs are “practical.” If the ultimate objective is truth, the generated beliefs are “scientific.” This article defends the practical/scientific belief distinction. The proposed distinction has been ignored by standard rational choice theory—as well as by its two major critics, viz., the Tversky/Kahneman program and the Simon/ Gigerenzer program. One ramification of the proposed distinction is clear: agents who make errors with regard to scientific (...) beliefs (e.g., the conjunction fallacy) should not be taken as committing irrationality—because they are most probably engaging the other kind of maximization, the pursuit of wellbeing. (shrink)
Civil society consists of members obligated to respect each other’s rights and, hence, trade with each other as equals. What determines the boundary, rather than the nature, of civil society? For Adam Smith, the boundary consists of humanity itself because it is determined by identification: humans identify with other humans because of common humanness. While Smith’s theory can explain the emotions associated with justice (jubilance) and injustice (resentment), it provides a mushy ground for the boundary question: Why not extend the (...) common identity to nonhuman animals? Or why not restrict the boundary to one’s own dialect, ethnicity or race? For David Hume, the boundary need not consist of humanity itself because it is determined by self-interest: a European need not respect the property of outsiders such as Native Americans, if the European benefits more by exploiting them than including them in the European society. While Hume’s theory can provide a solid ground for the boundary question, it cannot explain the emotions associated with justice. This paper suggests a framework that combines the strengths, and avoids the shortcomings, of Smith’s and Hume’s theories. (shrink)
Oaksford & Chater (O&C) would need to define rationality if they want to argue that stomachs are not rational. The question of rationality, anyhow, is orthogonal to the debate concerning whether humans use classical deductive logic or probabilistic reasoning.
Are there empirical anomalies upon which Dewey's theory of action sheds better light than existing neoclassical and heterodox approaches? This introduction answers in the affirmative. They are the set of anomalies highlighted by behavioral economics. These anomalies stress the centrality of context. Neoclassical theorists react to the 'context problematic' by claiming that context, after all, is part of either the constraint set or the preference set. Dewey and his collaborator, Bentley, called such standard rationality theories 'interactional.' On the other hand, (...) heterodox economists and mainstream sociologists and anthropologists appropriate the 'context problematic' to buttress their normative views on how constraints such as culture, norms, and budgets mold preferences after their image. Dewey and Bentley called such normative theories 'self-actional.' Both neoclassical theorists and their critics fail to see that context cannot be reduced to the constraint set, preference set, or set of norms. In contrast, Dewey and Bentley offer a fresh way to solve the 'context problematic,' what they call the 'transactional view.'. (shrink)
The rational-decision approach is superior to the associative-learning approach of Cook et al. at explaining why mirror neurons (MNs) fire or do not fire – even when the stimulus is the same. The rational-decision approach is superior because it starts with the analysis of the intention of the organism, i.e., with the identification of the specific objective or goal that the organism is trying to maximize.
Although the quantum probability (QP) can be useful to model the context effect, it is not relevant to the order effect, conjunction fallacy, and other related biases. Although the issue of potentiality, which is the intuition behind QP, is involved in the context effect, it is not involved in the other biases.
There are problems with the thesis of von Hippel & Trivers (VH&T): (1) It entails that self-deception arises from interpersonal deception which is not necessarily so; and (3) it entails that interpersonal deception is optimum – which may not be true.
Neoclassical and Marxian theorists have generally failed to explain entrepreneurship, and for an obvious reason. To apply the calculus of optimization, neoclassical theorists have to treat the set of resources as an object that exists 'initself,' i.e., independent of the acting subject. On the other hand, Marxian theorists, in advocating the labor theory of value, have to treat labor activity as an expression of an abstract ability which can be easily measured across the diverse concrete activities. John Dewey, throughout his (...) writing stretching over half a century, has undermined the objectivist view of means and of labor activity. Dewey, in fact, objected to the means-end dichotomy. This opens a window for a theory of entrepreneurship. (shrink)
The paper examines the ramifications of naturalism with regard to the question of individuality in economics and biology. Economic theory has to deal with whether households, firms, and states are individuals or are mere entities such as clubs, networks, and coalitions. Biological theory has to deal with the same question with regard to cells, organisms, family packs, and colonies. To wit, the question of individuality in both disciplines involves three separate problems: the metaphysical, phenomenist, and ontological. The metaphysical problem is (...) concerned with purposeful action: Is the firm or organism exclusively the product of efficient causality (optimization) or is it motivated by final causality (purposefulness)? The phenomenist problem is interested in the substantiality of essences: Is the firm''s or organism''s scheme of institutions/traits deep or is it extraneous to identity? The ontological problem is related to the issue of reductionism: Is the behavior of lower-level organization governed by a pre-constituted entities or is it context-sensitive? The paper finds that theoretical differences run along the naturalist/anti-naturalist divide rather than along disciplinary specialization. Also, the paper finds that it is not inconsistent for the same theorist to be naturalist with regard to one problem and anti-naturalist with respect to the other two problems. (shrink)
Rachlin basically marshals three reasons behind his unconventional claim that altruism is a subcategory of self-control and that, hence, the prisoner's dilemma is the appropriate metaphor of altruism. I do not find any of the three reasons convincing. Therefore, the prisoner's dilemma metaphor is unsuitable for explaining altruism.
Rosen accuses conventional biology of abandoning its main challenge: the understanding of the nature of life. Biologists generally act subservient to physicists, handicapped by the Cartesian metaphor of the organism as machine. This allows biologists to eschew the issue of intentionality and finalism. The machine metaphor assures biologists that they do not need to appeal to laws other than the ones used by physicists. Rosen argues that the machine metaphor affords the reduction of the organism to its constituent parts.
Textual exegesis is used to show that Marx's concept of social labor is transhistorical, referring to a collective activity of humans as a species. The collective nature of labor is suspended in capitalist production because of the anarchic character of market relations. But the suspension is skin deep: The sociality of labor asserts itself in a mediated manner through the alienated empowerment of goods with value. This is commodity fetishism, which vanishes when relations of production become actually collective?matching the transhistorical (...) essence of labor. Marx's concept of social labor is adjudged inadequate. It amounts to asserting that the actions of agents could be ex ante calculated according to a global rationality. In this respect, Marx's concept of social labor is reminiscent of the equally deficient notion of perfect competition in mainstream neoclassical economics. (shrink)
Preston & de Waal conflate familiarity with similarity in their attempt to account for empathy. If distinguished, we may have at hand two different kinds of empathy: egocentric empathy and empathy proper.
This article advances what it calls the ‘Impossibility Result’: it is impossible to claim that the reduction of exploitation leads to the improvement of efficiency. The Impossibility Result is the inevitable result of the proposed conceptual difference between ‘injustice’ and ‘exploitation’. Injustice occurs when one member of a society deviates from the norms and the legal rules concerning how one should treat other members of that society. Exploitation occurs when one member of a society takes advantage of entities such wild (...) animals, cattle, a field of vegetables, or other people that lie outside the boundary of that society. In many cases of exploitation, the exploited may derive some benefit, as in the case when enslavement is better than death. In other cases of exploitation, the exploited may derive zero benefit, called here ‘harm’, as in the case when a deer is hunted. (shrink)
Organisms change their shape and behavior during ontogenesis in response to incentives—what biologists call “phenotypic plasticity” or what is called here more specifically “behavioral plasticity.” Such plasticity is usually in the direction of enhancing welfare or fitness. In light of basic concepts in economics, such behavioral plasticity is nothing but rationality. Such rationality is not limited to organisms with neural systems. It also characterizes brainless organisms such as plants, fungi, and unicellular organisms. The gist of the article is the distinction (...) between rationality and intelligence. Whereas rationality is ubiquitous in all organisms, intelligence varies in degrees depending on division of labor that may involve the evolution of a neural system. This article aims to defend the universality of rationality—the Organismus oeconomicus hypothesis. It argues that neither the notion of bounded rationality of behavioral economics nor Herbert Simon’s “procedural rationality” can ultimately undermine the Organismus oeconomicus hypothesis. (shrink)
The brain is involved in theory-laden cognitive processes. But there are two different theory-laden processes. In cases where the theory is based on facts, more facts can either falsify or confirm a theory. In cases where the theory is about the choice of a benchmark or a standard, more facts can only make a theory either more or less warranted. Clark offers a review of a view of the brain where the brain pro- cesses input information in a way that (...) confirms its priors or its pre- dictions. This does not mean that the brain creates its own reality. The brain, rather, processes input data, but it does so in light of its own priors. The brain is a bidirectional hierarchical structure. While the top layers generate priors, the lower layers process input data. The brain amounts to the dynamics of image- making, where the top-down process generates unified images, while the bottom-up process, which takes data, corrects the images. (shrink)
ABSTRACTWhat is the source of the adulation of the rich-and-powerful? It cannot be benevolence. But then what is the criterion that delineates adulation from benevolence? This paper argues that the criterion resides in the set of inputs of the utility function: Does the set includes only interests, i.e. bundles of goods and resources? If so, the product is benevolence. But if the set includes aspiration, i.e. the desire to attain some imagined higher station, the product is adulation. Relying on Smith's (...) theory, aspiration first amounts to the immersion of the self with the desired higher station. Second, aspiration becomes supplanted with adulation, the basking under the achievements of the more successful rich-and-powerful as second best, i.e. when the decision maker fails to attain the aspired station. The proposed interests-aspiration distinction, as the ground of the benevolence-adulation distinction, has one important payoff. The origin of the adulation of higher rank, and the consequent stability of the political order, should be traced to aspiration-derived inputs, not exclusively to interests. (shrink)
This chapter offers a subtle but subversive thesis: There is no difference between everyday action and creativity and, consequently, evolution. This thesis is subversive. It goes against the dominant dogmas in economics (i.e., neoclassical theory) and evolutionary biology (i.e., neo-Darwinian theory). Both dogmas draw a radical divide between action and evolution. For neo-Darwinian theory, action is phenotype ultimately determined by genotype—while the genotype evolves according to another mechanism. For neoclassical economics, action is determined by rational calculation of the efficient allocation (...) of given resources—while resources evolve according to another mechanism. To undermine the radical divide between the theory of action and the theory of evolution, this chapter shows how everyday action—from walking, fetching water, to fishing—is entrepreneurial at first approximation—and hence should be the basis of the theory of evolution. (shrink)
Redish et al. view addictions as errors arising from the weak access points of the system of decision-making. They do not analytically distinguish between addictions, on the one hand, and errors highlighted by behavioural decision theory, such as over-confidence, representativeness heuristics, conjunction fallacy, and so on, on the other. Redish et al.'s decision-making framework may not be comprehensive enough to capture addictions.