Beyond self-goal choice
Discussions of the cooperation problem, as encountered in experimental economics in Chapter 5, and the comments on the theory of coordination and necessary revisions of our model of practical reasoning in Chapter 6, have shown how important it is to include an understanding of social identity and the sharing of intentional attitudes in social science. This sets us in sharp opposition to the dominant view of economic rationality. At the same time, there are many sources in earlier social theory as well as in the current debate on the economic model of human behavior on which such a revision can draw. In this chapter, one of these sources — perhaps the most important one in terms of personal reputation — shall be examined. In the current debate on economic rationality, Amartya Sen's work plays a uniquely important role. Sen is widely regarded as one of the most astute and thorough critics of rational choice theory; papers such as his Rational Fools (1977) have been of tremendous influence on the further development of the debate. In this paper, as well as in his later contributions to the topic, Sen largely relies on one conceptual tool to demonstrate the limitations of rational choice. The concept in question is commitment. Commitment, Sen argues, is a central feature of most domains of human behavior. And it cannot be accounted for, Sen claims, within rational choice theory. This chapter examines Sen's claim. Special attention is paid to the way Sen ties commitment to social identity. Moreover, it is argued that the most radical of Sen's claim, which even sympathetic interpreters tend to reject, makes sound sense if we consider the structure of joint action. The issue at stake here is Sen's claim that an adequate account of committed action requires us to go beyond what Sen calls the self-goal choice assumption. This is true in the most straightforward sense, I argue, if we consider the structure of collective goals.
Full citation [Harvard style]:
Schmid, H.B. (2009)., Beyond self-goal choice, in H. B. Schmid, Plural action, Dordrecht, Springer, pp. 119-130.
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