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Rationality and Freedom / Edition 1

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Overview

Rationality and freedom are among the most profound and contentious concepts in philosophy and the social sciences. In two volumes on rationality, freedom, and justice, the distinguished economist and philosopher Amartya Sen brings clarity and insight to these difficult issues. This volume--the first of the two--is principally concerned with rationality and freedom.

Sen scrutinizes and departs from the standard criteria of rationality, and shows how it can be seen in terms of subjecting one's values as well as choices to the demands of reason and critical scrutiny. This capacious approach is utilized to illuminate the demands of rationality in individual choice (including decisions under uncertainty) as well as social choice (including cost benefit analysis and environmental assessment).

Identifying a reciprocity in the relationship between rationality and freedom, Sen argues that freedom cannot be assessed independently of a person's reasoned preferences and valuations, just as rationality, in turn, requires freedom of thought. Sen uses the discipline of social choice theory (a subject he has helped to develop) to illuminate the demands of reason and the assessment of freedom. The latter is the subject matter of Sen's previously unpublished Arrow Lectures included here.

The essays in these volumes contribute to Sen's ongoing transformation of economic theory and social philosophy, and to our understanding of the connections among rationality, freedom, and social justice.

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Editorial Reviews

New York Review of Books

One of the most attractive qualities of Rationality and Freedom is an extraordinary intellectual good nature. Whenever he can express gratitude, Professor Sen does so; whenever he criticizes it is gently—and save on very rare occasions it is only after he has expressed his appreciation for the stimulus provided by the error he uncovers. It would be a poor return for what he offers us here to pretend that everything he writes is equally persuasive; for even when he is unpersuasive he provides intellectual pleasures that few writers can match.
— Alan Ryan

American Political Science Review

Sen brings a hard-edged intellect to regions of thought usually regarded as slushy and amorphous...Anyone interested in the topics of freedom, equality, or justice would profit from a close reading of this book.
— Richard J. Arneson

Times Higher Education Supplement

A work of striking intellectual ambition and unusual intellectual patience, tensely engaged in many different struggles and on a wide variety of levels. What it offers is not a set of simple and readily portable conclusions, or a means for reconciling the reader to a devastatingly imperfect historical world, but a sustained effort to clarify where the main imperfections come from, and what could, in principle, be done to alleviate them.
— John Dunn

Social Development Issues
Sen's arguments about social choice are important. The first chapter of the book offers a straightforward and comprehensive account of the social choice approach and this discussion is extended in the Nobel Lecture that forms the second chapter of the book… [I]t should be widely consulted by social development scholars who need to understand rational choice liberalism and its relevance to social development.
Kenneth J. Arrow
Sen's mastery in the fields of social choice, the foundations of welfare economics, and, more broadly, distributive ethics and the measurement problems associated with these fields is unquestioned.
New York Review of Books - A. B. Atkinson
Amartya Sen occupies a unique position among modern economists. He is an outstanding economic theorist, a world authority on social choice and welfare economics. He is a leading figure in development economics, carrying out pathbreaking work on appraising the effectiveness of investment in poor countries and, more recently, on famine. At the same time, he takes a broad view of the subject and has done much to widen the perspective of economists.
American Political Science Review - Richard J. Arneson
Sen brings a hard-edged intellect to regions of thought usually regarded as slushy and amorphous...Anyone interested in the topics of freedom, equality, or justice would profit from a close reading of this book.
Times Higher Education Supplement - John Dunn
A work of striking intellectual ambition and unusual intellectual patience, tensely engaged in many different struggles and on a wide variety of levels. What it offers is not a set of simple and readily portable conclusions, or a means for reconciling the reader to a devastatingly imperfect historical world, but a sustained effort to clarify where the main imperfections come from, and what could, in principle, be done to alleviate them.
New York Review of Books - Alan Ryan
One of the most attractive qualities of Rationality and Freedom is an extraordinary intellectual good nature. Whenever he can express gratitude, Professor Sen does so; whenever he criticizes it is gently--and save on very rare occasions it is only after he has expressed his appreciation for the stimulus provided by the error he uncovers. It would be a poor return for what he offers us here to pretend that everything he writes is equally persuasive; for even when he is unpersuasive he provides intellectual pleasures that few writers can match.
Library Journal
Nobel Prize Winning economist Sen here argues that freedom and rationality go together and that freedom involves genuine opportunity; the absence of restraint is not enough. People must not be lulled into contentment with their lot by cultural norms or propaganda-as happens with the poor in India, for instance, who sometimes are not aware of their plight. Though Sen rejects moral relativism, he does argue that the freedom involves a choice of values, and he is suspicious when market theorists claim that the free market can solve all problems. As Sen acknowledges, his ideas go back to T.H. Green in the 19th century and build on the foundations of Kenneth Arrow in the 20th century. Some of the essays here have circulated for a while, but the ideas benefit from restatement; we can see why Sen, now master of Trinity College, Cambridge, won the Nobel prize. Still, one wishes that the prose could rise above the economic jargon and make the book accessible to those beyond academia.-Leslie Armour, Univ. of Ottawa, Ont.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674013513
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 2/28/2004
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 752
  • Sales rank: 1,424,935
  • Product dimensions: 6.32 (w) x 9.22 (h) x 1.41 (d)

Meet the Author

Amartya Sen, winner of the 1998 Nobel Prize in Economics, is Lamont University Professor, Harvard University.
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Table of Contents

Preface

Part I General Introductions

1. Introduction: Rationality and Freedom

2. The Possibility of Social Choice

Part II Rationality: Form and Substance

3. Internal Consistency of Choice

4. Maximization and the Act of Choice

5. Goals, Commitment, and Identity

6. Rationality and Uncertainty

7. Non-Binary Choice and Preference

Part III Rationality and Social Choice

8. Rationality and Social Choice

9. Individual Preference as the Basis of Social Choice

10. Social Choice and Justice

11. Information and Invariance in Normative Choice

Part IV Liberty and Social Choice

12. Liberty and Social Choice

13. Minimal Liberty

14. Rights: Formulation and Consequences

Part V Perspectives and Policies

15. Positional Objectivity

16. On the Darwinian View of Progress

17. Markets and Freedoms

18. Environmental Evaluation and Social Choice

19. The Discipline of Cost-Benefit Analysis

Part VI Freedom and Social Choice: The Arrow Lectures Introductory Remarks

20. Opportunities and Freedoms

21. Processes, Liberty and Rights

22. Freedom and the Evaluation of Opportunity

Name Index

Subject Index

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