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La rationalité du choix passionnel : En quête de l'héritage de David Hume


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  • André Lapidus

    (PHARE - Pôle d'Histoire de l'Analyse et des Représentations Economiques - CNRS : FRE2541 - Université Panthéon-Sorbonne - Paris I - Université de Paris X - Nanterre)


The question of choice, in Hume's works, lies within the more general framework of the theory of passions. These lead towards desire, aversion and volition, and require reason, as a cognitive faculty, in order to build the set of objects on which our preferences are defined, and to determine its properties. Governed by pleasure and pain, this device nonetheless allows discrepancies between the relation of pleasure and the relation of preference, as shown by the examples of indiscrimination and intertemporal choice. This discrepancy is explained by Hume's distinction between pleasure as a feeling and pleasure as an idea, the ' force and vividness' of which determines action. The question of choice in uncertainty is derived from the discussion of the ‘mixed' passions of hope and of fear. On first view, Hume's writings seem to give credit to their interpretation in terms of expected utility. Nonetheless, both the mental process, of which the judgement of probability is an outcome, and the dynamics of passions, invite us to reconsider this impression: the connection between Hume's approach and expected utility is justified only to the extent that it lays down a norm, face to which possible variations are explained by the imaginative and passionate processes which gave them birth.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by HAL in its series Post-Print with number hal-00343939.

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Date of creation: 2000
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Publication status: Published, L'Année sociologique, 2000, 50, 1, 9-84
Handle: RePEc:hal:journl:hal-00343939

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Keywords: Hume; passions; rational choice; individual behaviour; economic theory; choix rationnel ; comportement individuel ; théorie économique;


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  1. Machina, Mark J, 1982. ""Expected Utility" Analysis without the Independence Axiom," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 50(2), pages 277-323, March.
  2. Tversky, Amos & Kahneman, Daniel, 1986. "Rational Choice and the Framing of Decisions," The Journal of Business, University of Chicago Press, vol. 59(4), pages S251-78, October.
  3. Amos Tversky & Daniel Kahneman, 1979. "Prospect Theory: An Analysis of Decision under Risk," Levine's Working Paper Archive 7656, David K. Levine.
  4. Shafer, Glenn, 1996. "The significance of Jacob Bernoulli's Ars Conjectandi for the philosophy of probability today," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 75(1), pages 15-32, November.
  5. Stigler, George J & Becker, Gary S, 1977. "De Gustibus Non Est Disputandum," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 67(2), pages 76-90, March.
  6. Levy-Garboua, L., 1999. "Expected Utility and Cognitive Consistency," Papiers d'Economie Mathématique et Applications 1999.104, Université Panthéon-Sorbonne (Paris 1).
  7. David Andrews, 1999. "Continuity and change in Keynes's thought: the importance of Hume," The European Journal of the History of Economic Thought, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 6(1), pages 1-21.
  8. Hampton, Jean, 1994. "The Failure of Expected-Utility Theory as a Theory of Reason," Economics and Philosophy, Cambridge University Press, vol. 10(02), pages 195-242, October.
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Cited by:
  1. Arnaud Orain, 2003. "Decline and progress: the economic agent in Condillac's theory of history," The European Journal of the History of Economic Thought, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 10(3), pages 379-407.


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