Workshop on Rationality and Commitment

From left to right: Philip Pettit, Amartya K. Sen, Simon Gächter, Fabienne Peter, Robert Sugden, Hans Bernhard Schmid, Herlinde Pauer-Studer, Bruno Verbeek, Geoffrey Brennan, Gebhard Kirchgässner, Daniel Hausman, Raimo Tuomela (front), Luc Bovens (back), Margaret Gilbert, Hartmut Kliemt, Dieter Thomä, John Davis.

Rational choice theory forms the core of the economic approach to human behaviour. It is also the most influential philosophical account of practical rationality. Yet there are persistent controversies about the scope of rational choice theory in philosophy and, increasingly, in economics as well. A leading critic is the philosopher and Nobel Laureate economist Amartya Sen, who put forward a trenchant critique of rational choice theory in his seminal paper 'Rational Fools'. Sen emphasizes the importance of commitment - those aspects of human behavior which dispose individuals to co-operate, follow norms, and identify with others. He argues that rational choice theory cannot accommodate commitment, and demands a more adequate account of rationality.

The question of how to account for the rationality of commitment is very much an open issue and, if anything, even more pressing today than when Sen first raised it. In Rationality and Commitment , thirteen leading philosophers and economists discuss Sen's claims and propose their own answers to the question of how to account for the rationality of committed action.


Organizing Committee: Fabienne Peter, Hans Bernhard Schmid, Dieter Thomä



The resulting papers of this workshop can be found in:


Symposium on Rationality and Commitment, Economics&Philosophy 21(1), 2005 [Link]


Rationality and Commitment, Oxford University Press [Link]
Edited by Fabienne Peter and Hans Bernhard Schmid
ISBN13: 9780199287260ISBN10: 0199287260 Hardback, 400 pages 


Table of Contents

Rational Fools, Rational Commitments: An Introduction , Fabienne Peter and Hans Bernhard Schmid

Part I. Committed Action

1. Why Exactly is Commitment Important for Rationality? , Amartya Sen

2. Construing Sen on Commitment , Philip Pettit

3. Sympathy, Commitment, and Preference , Daniel Hausman

Part II. Rethinking Rationality

4. Instrumental Rationality Versus Practical Reason: Goals, Ends, and Commitment , Herlinde Pauer-Studer

5. The Grammar of Rationality , Geoffrey Brennan

6. The Rationality of Rational Fools: The Role of Commitments, Persons and Agents in Rational Choice Modelling , Werner Güth and Hartmut Kliemt

7. Rational Self-commitment , Bruno Verbeek

8. Rationality and Commitment in Voluntary Cooperation: Insights from Experimental Economics , Simon Gächter and Christian Thöni

Part III. Commitment, Intentions, and Identity

9. Beyond Self-goal Choice: Sen's Analysis of Commitment and The Role of Shared Desires , Hans Bernhard Schmid

10. Cooperation and the We-perspective , Raimo Tuomela

11. Collective Intentions, Commitment and Collective Action Problems , Margaret Gilbert

12. Theories of Team Agency , Robert Sugden and Natalie Gold

13. Identity and Commitment: Sen's Conception of the Individual , John Davis

Rational Choice: Discipline, Brand Name and Substance , Amartya Sen