Scholars of behavioral welfare economics disagree about the plausibility of preference purification - the idea that some “purer” preferences track people’s welfare better than others. Some tout preference purification as a familiar phenomenon and a solution to the problem of paternalism in welfare policy. Others denounce it as conceptually incoherent, postulating that it relies on the psychologically implausible assumption of an inner rational agent. I argue that the debate turns on different notions of rationality: the account of the foundations of preference purification that its critics use to undermine its psychological plausibility aligns with a procedural notion of rationality. Yet, some of its proponents align more closely with a structural notion of rationality. In a first step, I, therefore, explicate how structural rationality allows us to offer a more defensible account of the foundations of preference purification, one that doesn’t appeal to an inner rational agent. In a second step, I argue that, while this recasting by itself is unlikely to resolve the debate, it sits particularly well with the so-called evidential account of the relationship between preferences and welfare. In this regard, I point out two challenges for preference purification that emerge under the novel account introduced here and argue that the evidential account has the resources to address these challenges.
Two traditions of experiments in economics are especially prominent, namely cognitive psychology experiments in the heuristics and biases tradition (H&B-experiments) and experimental economics in the tradition of Vernon Smith. In this paper, I aim to offer a novel reconstruction of the two experimental paradigms that can highlight a plausible source of their pervasive disagreements. Towards this aim, I focus on preferences as one of the most fundamental concepts in economics. I argue that experimental economics can be reconstructed as holding that the constituents of preferences can be partially located in agents’ environments, while H&B-experiments implicitly assume that the constituents of preferences are entirely located within agents’ bodies. The paper (i) outlines how my reconstruction can account for the disagreement between the two paradigms, (ii) defends the plausibility of this reconstruction, (iii) and highlights its implications for the debate about the nature of preferences in economics.
In this paper, we explore an under-investigated question concerning the class of formal models that aim at providing normative guidance. We call such models normative models. In particular, we examine the question of how normative models can successfully exert normative guidance. First, we highlight the absence of a discussion of this question—which is surprising given the extensive debate about the success conditions of descriptive models—and motivate its importance. Second, we introduce and discuss two potential accounts of the success conditions of normative models. Our tentative conclusion is that the second account is more promising.
Functionalism about kinds is still the dominant style of thought in the special sciences, like economics, psychology, and biology. Generally construed, functionalism is the view that states or processes can be individuated based on what role they play rather than what they are constituted of or realized by. Recently, Weiskopf has posited a reformulation of functionalism on the model-based approach to explanation. We refer to this reformulation as 'new functionalism.' In this paper, we seek to defend new functionalism and to re-cast it in light of the concrete explanatory needs of the special sciences. In particular, we argue that the assessment of the explanatory legitimacy of a functional kind needs to take into account the explanatory purpose of the model in which the functional kind is employed. We aim at demonstrating this by appealing to model-based explanations from the social and behavioral sciences. Specifically, we focus on preferences and signals in game theoretical models. Our argument is intended to have the double impact of deflecting mechanistic criticisms against new functionalism while also expanding its scope to the social and behavioral sciences.
Completed Manuscripts (available on request)
My aim in this paper is to argue that the recent defenses of revealed preference theory do not withstand scrutiny. Towards this aim, I will first outline revealed preference theory. I will then briefly present the two most common arguments that the received view offers against it. Afterwards, I will outline three argumentative strategies for rehabilitating revealed preference theory, and successively rebut each of them.
In this paper, we explicate an underappreciated distinction between two conceptions of valuing. According to the first conception, which we call the surface-account, valuing something is exclusively a matter of having certain behavioral, cognitive, and emotional dispositions. In contrast, the second conception, which we call the layer-account, posits that valuing is constituted by the presence of certain representational mental states underlying those dispositions. In the first part of the paper, we introduce the distinction in proper detail and show that the accounts have different implications regarding the valuings of agents. In the second part, we situate the accounts within the extant philosophical literature. First, we relate them to the recent debate between so-called dispositionalists and representationalists about the nature of beliefs, and point out that this debate can help anticipate some of the main dialectical fault lines to be expected between surface- and layer-theorists. Second, we examine the contemporary meta-ethical debate on conceptualizing valuing and indicate that scholars have largely ignored the distinction introduced here, and outline that this oversight has substantial theoretical costs: as we show, key arguments within the meta-ethical debate require thorough re-evaluation in light of the proposed distinction. The third part of the paper illustrates the theoretical leverage of the distinction for practical research by exploring its implications for behavioral welfare economics.
Despite on-going debates in philosophy and cognitive science, dual-process theory (DPT) remains a popular framework for theorizing about human cognition. Its central hypothesis is that the majority of cognitive processing can be subsumed under two types. In this paper, we argue that the putative success and subsequent popularity of this framework is currently overstated and possibly misunderstood. If DPT has predictive or explanatory power, it is through offering descriptions of cognitive phenomena via functional analysis. But functional descriptions require an individuation strategy. To date, there has been no systematic exploration of how Type 1 and Type 2 are functionally individuated. In line with recent debates in philosophy of science, we consider three individuation strategies (i.e., abstraction, reification, fictionalization) and assess the legitimacy of each in relation to DPT’s scientific goals. This leads us to the verdict that the most viable route for DPT is to construe Type 1 and Type 2 processes as reifications. We then show that, under a reificationist interpretation, common rationales for demarcating Type 1 and Type 2 processes are lacking. We conclude by considering alternative rationales for preserving the Type 1-Type 2 distinction; the ‘commonsense story’ and the ‘meta-theory story’. We determine both to be untenable.
Work in progress