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Against Reductionist Explanations of Human Behaviour: John O’Neill

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One response to Dupré’s criticism of rational choice theory’s unifying aspirations is that it is aimed at over-ambitious versions of the theory. Immodesty about the scope of rational choice theory may look more plausible given suitable modesty in assumptions about the rational agent. The paper examines problems with one immodest version of the theory—public choice theory—and show how these shed light on problems in modest versions employing minimal assumptions about the preference structure of rational agents. However, while rational choice theory may fail in its unifying ambitions, I argue those aspirations are defensible.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: University of Lancaster

Publication date: June 1, 1998

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