IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this article

The forgotten role of the rationality principle in economics


  • Maurice Lagueux


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

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: Access to full text is restricted to subscribers.

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to search for a different version of it.


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    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.


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:taf:jecmet:v:11:y:2004:i:1:p:31-51. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Chris Longhurst). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    We have no references for this item. You can help adding them by using this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.