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Roberto Fumagalli
King's College London
  1.  12
    How Thin Rational Choice Theory Explains Choices.Roberto Fumagalli - forthcoming - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A.
    The critics of rational choice theory (RCT) frequently build on the contrast between so-called thick and thin applications of RCT to argue that thin RCT lacks the potential to explain the choices of real-world agents. In this paper, I draw on often-cited RCT applications in several decision sciences to demonstrate that despite this prominent critique there are at least two different senses in which thin RCT can explain real-world agents’ choices. I then defend this thesis against the most influential objections (...)
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  2.  92
    Why We Cannot Learn From Minimal Models.Roberto Fumagalli - 2016 - Erkenntnis 81 (3):433-455.
    Philosophers of science have developed several accounts of how consideration of scientific models can prompt learning about real-world targets. In recent years, various authors advocated the thesis that consideration of so-called minimal models can prompt learning about such targets. In this paper, I draw on the philosophical literature on scientific modelling and on widely cited illustrations from economics and biology to argue that this thesis fails to withstand scrutiny. More specifically, I criticize leading proponents of such thesis for failing to (...)
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  3.  9
    Buyer Beware: A Critique of Leading Virtue Ethics Defences of Markets.Roberto Fumagalli - forthcoming - Journal of Social Philosophy.
    Over the last few decades, there have been intense debates concerning the effects of markets on the morality of individuals’ behaviour. On the one hand, several authors argue that markets’ ongoing expansion tends to undermine individuals’ intentions for mutual benefit and virtuous character traits and actions. On the other hand, leading economists and philosophers characterize markets as a domain of intentional cooperation for mutual benefit that promotes many of the character traits and actions that traditional virtue ethics accounts classify as (...)
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  4.  61
    The Futile Search for True Utility.Roberto Fumagalli - 2013 - Economics and Philosophy 29 (3):325-347.
    In traditional decision theory, utility is regarded as a mathematical representation of preferences to be inferred from agents hedonic experiences. Some go as far as to contend that utility is literally computed by specific neural areas and urge economists to complement or substitute their notion of utility with some neuro-psychological construct. In this paper, I distinguish three notions of utility that are frequently mentioned in debates about decision theory and examine some critical issues regarding their definition and measurability. Moreover, I (...)
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  5. On the Alleged Insignificance of the Primordial Existential Question.Roberto Fumagalli - 2012 - Studia Leibnitiana 44 (2):212-228.
    Leibniz’s question “why is there something rather than nothing?”, also known as the Primordial Existential Question, has often been the focus of intense philosophical controversy. While some authors take it to pose a profound metaphysical puzzle, others denounce the alleged lack of meaning or the inconceivability of the idea of nothingness. In a series of articles, Adolf Grünbaum develops an empirically informed critique with the aim to demonstrate that the Primordial Existential Question poses a “non-issue” which does not require explanation. (...)
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  6.  7
    On the Individuation of Choice Options.Roberto Fumagalli - 2020 - Philosophy of the Social Sciences 50 (4):338-365.
    Decision theorists have attempted to accommodate several violations of decision theory’s axiomatic requirements by modifying how agents’ choice options are individuated and formally represented. In recent years, prominent authors have worried that these modifications threaten to trivialize decision theory, make the theory unfalsifiable, impose overdemanding requirements on decision theorists, and hamper decision theory’s internal coherence. In this paper, I draw on leading descriptive and normative works in contemporary decision theory to address these prominent concerns. In doing so, I articulate and (...)
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  7.  29
    Decision Sciences and the New Case for Paternalism: Three Welfare-Related Justificatory Challenges.Roberto Fumagalli - 2016 - Social Choice and Welfare 47 (2):459-480.
    Several authors have recently advocated a so-called new case for paternalism, according to which empirical findings from distinct decision sciences provide compelling reasons in favour of paternalistic interference. In their view, the available behavioural and neuro-psychological findings enable paternalists to address traditional anti-paternalistic objections and reliably enhance the well-being of their target agents. In this paper, I combine insights from decision-making research, moral philosophy and evidence-based policy evaluation to assess the merits of this case. In particular, I articulate and defend (...)
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  8.  14
    Slipping on Slippery Slope Arguments.Roberto Fumagalli - 2020 - Bioethics 34 (4):412-419.
    Slippery slope arguments (SSAs) are used in a wide range of philosophical debates, but are often dismissed as empirically ill-founded and logically fallacious. In particular, leading authors put forward a meta-SSA which points to instances of empirically ill-founded and logically fallacious SSAs and to the alleged existence of a slippery slope leading to such SSAs to demonstrate that people should avoid using SSAs altogether. In this paper, I examine these prominent calls against using SSAs and argue that such calls do (...)
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  9.  35
    Who is Afraid of Scientific Imperialism?Roberto Fumagalli - 2018 - Synthese 195 (9):4125-4146.
    In recent years, several authors have debated about the justifiability of so-called scientific imperialism. To date, however, widespread disagreements remain regarding both the identification and the normative evaluation of scientific imperialism. In this paper, I aim to remedy this situation by making some conceptual distinctions concerning scientific imperialism and by providing a detailed assessment of the most prominent objections to it. I shall argue that these objections provide a valuable basis for opposing some instances of scientific imperialism, but do not (...)
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  10.  67
    On the Neural Enrichment of Economic Models: Tractability, Trade-Offs and Multiple Levels of Description.Roberto Fumagalli - 2011 - Biology and Philosophy 26 (5):617-635.
    In the recent literature at the interface between economics, biology and neuroscience, several authors argue that by adopting an interdisciplinary approach to the analysis of decision making, economists will be able to construct predictively and explanatorily superior models. However, most economists remain quite reluctant to import biological or neural insights into their account of choice behaviour. In this paper, I reconstruct and critique one of the main arguments by means of which economists attempt to vindicate their conservative position. Furthermore, I (...)
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  11.  20
    (F)Utility Exposed.Roberto Fumagalli - 2019 - Philosophy of Science 86 (5):955-966.
    In recent years, several authors have called to ground descriptive and normative decision theory on neuro-psychological measures of utility. In this paper, I combine insights from the best available neuro-psychological findings, leading philosophical conceptions of welfare and contemporary decision theory to rebut these prominent calls. I argue for two claims of general interest to philosophers, choice modellers and policy makers. First, severe conceptual, epistemic and evidential problems plague ongoing attempts to develop accurate and reliable neuro-psychological measures of utility. And second, (...)
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  12.  36
    No Learning From Minimal Models.Roberto Fumagalli - 2015 - Philosophy of Science 82 (5):798-809.
    This article examines the issue of whether consideration of so-called minimal models can prompt learning about real-world targets. Using a widely cited example as a test case, it argues against the increasingly popular view that consideration of minimal models can prompt learning about such targets. The article criticizes influential defenses of this view for failing to explicate by virtue of what properties or features minimal models supposedly prompt learning. It then argues that consideration of minimal models cannot prompt learning about (...)
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  13.  75
    Five Theses on Neuroeconomics.Roberto Fumagalli - 2016 - Journal of Economic Methodology 23 (1):77-96.
    Over the last decade, neuroeconomic research has attracted increasing attention by economic modellers and methodologists. In this paper, I examine five issues about neuroeconomic modelling and methodology that have recently been subject to considerable controversy. For each issue, I explicate and appraise prominent neuroeconomists' findings, focusing on those that are claimed to directly inform economic theorizing. Moreover, I assess often-made assertions concerning how neuroeconomic research putatively advances the economic modelling of choice. In doing so, I combine review and critical arguments (...)
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  14.  26
    Economics, Psychology, and the Unity of the Decision Sciences.Roberto Fumagalli - 2016 - Philosophy of the Social Sciences 46 (2):103-128.
    In recent years, several authors have reconstructed the relationship between 20th-century economic theory and neuro-psychological research in terms of a three-stage narrative of initial unity, increasing separation, and ongoing reunification. In this article, I draw on major developments in economic theory and neuro-psychological research to provide a descriptive and normative critique of this reconstruction. Moreover, I put forward a reconstruction of the relationship between economics and neuro-psychology that, I claim, better fits both the available empirical evidence and the methodological foundations (...)
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  15.  43
    The Disunity of Neuroeconomics: A Methodological Appraisal.Roberto Fumagalli - 2010 - Journal of Economic Methodology 17 (2):119-131.
    The recent advancements at the interface between economics and neuroscience have encouraged neuroeconomists to raise several criticisms concerning the economic theory of choice. At present, however, there is little agreement with regard to the theoretical presuppositions and the explanatory aims of neuroeconomics. In this paper, I assess the scope and the significance of neuroeconomists' divergences, casting doubt on their attempts to provide a unified theoretical framework for analysing human choice behaviour. Moreover, I highlight some respects in which methodologically informed considerations (...)
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  16.  4
    Markets, Morals, and Virtues: Evidential and Conceptual Issues.Roberto Fumagalli - 2020 - Erasmus Journal for Philosophy and Economics 13 (1).
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  17.  30
    Neural Findings and Economic Models: Why Brains Have Limited Relevance for Economics.Roberto Fumagalli - 2014 - Philosophy of the Social Sciences 44 (5):606-629.
    Proponents of neuroeconomics often argue that better knowledge of the human neural architecture enables economists to improve standard models of choice. In their view, these improvements provide compelling reasons to use neural findings in constructing and evaluating economic models. In a recent article, I criticized this view by pointing to the trade-offs between the modeling desiderata valued by neuroeconomists and other economists, respectively. The present article complements my earlier critique by focusing on three modeling desiderata that figure prominently in economic (...)
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  18.  10
    Against Neuroscience Imperialism.Roberto Fumagalli - 2017 - In Uskali Mäki, Adrian Walsh & Manuela Fernández Pinto (eds.), Scientific Imperialism: Exploring the Boundaries of Interdisciplinarity. pp. 205-223.
    In recent years, several authors advocated neuroscience imperialism, an instance of scientific imperialism whereby neuroscience methods and findings are systematically applied to model and explain phenomena investigated by other disciplines. Calls for neuroscience imperialism target a wide range of disciplines, including psychology, economics, and philosophy. To date, however, neuroscience imperialism has not received detailed attention by philosophers, and the debate concerning its identification and normative assessment is relatively underdeveloped. In this paper, I aim to remedy this situation by making some (...)
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  19.  27
    Choice Models and Realistic Ontologies: Three Challenges to Neuro-Psychological Modellers.Roberto Fumagalli - 2016 - European Journal for Philosophy of Science 6 (1):145-164.
    Choice modellers are frequently criticized for failing to provide accurate representations of the neuro-psychological substrates of decisions. Several authors maintain that recent neuro-psychological findings enable choice modellers to overcome this alleged shortcoming. Some advocate a realistic interpretation of neuro-psychological models of choice, according to which these models posit sub-personal entities with specific neuro-psychological counterparts and characterize those entities accurately. In this article, I articulate and defend three complementary arguments to demonstrate that, contrary to emerging consensus, even the best available neuro-psychological (...)
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  20.  17
    On the Neural Enrichment of Economic Models: Recasting the Challenge.Roberto Fumagalli - 2017 - Biology and Philosophy 32 (2):201-220.
    In a recent article in this Journal, Fumagalli argues that economists are provisionally justified in resisting prominent calls to integrate neural variables into economic models of choice. In other articles, various authors engage with Fumagalli’s argument and try to substantiate three often-made claims concerning neuroeconomic modelling. First, the benefits derivable from neurally informing some economic models of choice do not involve significant tractability costs. Second, neuroeconomic modelling is best understood within Marr’s three-level of analysis framework for information-processing systems. And third, (...)
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  21.  23
    Economics for Real. Uskali Mäki and the Place of Truth in Economics, Edited by Aki Lehtinen, Jaakko Kuorikoski and Petri Ylikoski. Routledge, 2012, Xiii+ 280 Pages. [REVIEW]Roberto Fumagalli - 2013 - Economics and Philosophy 29 (2):283-289.