Negative Goals and Identity: Revisiting Sen’s Critique of Homo Economicus
Sen's critique of the homo economicus conception of choice asserts that agents who `displace' their goals, and instead choose on the basis of others', are not therefore irrational. I first defend Sen against the objection that violations of "self-goal choice" undermine coherent deliberation. My critique of Sen then introduces the notion of ... `negative goals' and shows that the process of adopting others' aims remains constrained by those `goals' that determine the spectrum of actions that an agent considers permissible. Only on rare occasions are we pushed to violate even these negative goals that play a central role for our identities.
Original publication in
Rationality, markets, and morals: RMM 4 (2013), 157-172