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The forgotten role of the rationality principle in economics

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  • Maurice Lagueux

Abstract

This paper aims to show that, throughout the history of economics, an increasingly wide gap has developed between the rationality principle, usually considered as the fundamental principle of economic science, and the notion of rationality that progressively became a standard component of any model of modern microeconomics. This claim is illustrated through an analysis of the various ways in which 'rationality' was understood from classical economics to contemporary debates where axioms such as transitivity and independence, which contemporary economists associate with the notion of rationality, are subjected to a number of devastating critiques. Another claim of this paper is that, while these critiques put the modern notion of rationality seriously into question, they leave the rationality principle undamaged since they were typically made in the name of that principle. It concludes with an argument emphasising the underestimated importance of the rationality principle for economics.

Suggested Citation

  • Maurice Lagueux, 2004. "The forgotten role of the rationality principle in economics," Journal of Economic Methodology, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 11(1), pages 31-51.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:jecmet:v:11:y:2004:i:1:p:31-51
    DOI: 10.1080/1350178042000177996
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    Cited by:

    1. Gebhard Kirchgässner, 2013. "The Weak Rationality Principle in Economics," Swiss Journal of Economics and Statistics (SJES), Swiss Society of Economics and Statistics (SSES), vol. 149(I), pages 1-26, March.
    2. Baker, Rachel Mairi, 2006. "Economic rationality and health and lifestyle choices for people with diabetes," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 63(9), pages 2341-2353, November.
    3. Houben, Henriette & Maiterth, Ralf, 2008. "Zur Diskussion der Thesaurierungsbegünstigung nach § 34a EStG," arqus Discussion Papers in Quantitative Tax Research 42, arqus - Arbeitskreis Quantitative Steuerlehre.
    4. Juan Carlos De Pablo, 2005. "Después de Kahneman y Tversky; ¿Qué queda de la Teoría Económica?," Revista de Economía y Estadística, Universidad Nacional de Córdoba, Facultad de Ciencias Económicas, Instituto de Economía y Finanzas, vol. 0(1), pages 55-98, January.

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