Sunday, 14 June 2009

Is Martha Nussbaum a liberal elitist?

Martha Nussbaum is a great philosopher. She has great ideas; writes beautifully, cogently, and persuasively; and offers deep and perceptive reading of others' work (this is not as usual as you might expect). Furthermore you couldn't describe her as an elitist in the usual academic sense of living in an ivory tower making obscure or irrelevant pronouncements on the state of human nature. Indeed she has been involved for decades in development work (most especially with Amartya Sen's Capability Approach) focussing particularly on the awful and coercive social arrangements many women around the world are forced to live under. She once wrote a scathing and influential essay, which I admire very much, condemning American academic feminism for its narcissistic focus on the personal and the West, rather than the political and the rest.

So not an academic ivory tower elitist. But there is still something odd about how Nussbaum works.

Sunday, 7 June 2009

Gerd Gigerenzer on 'rules of thumb'

Orthodox economics asks the question 'What is rational decision-making?' It recommends allocating scarce resources among our competing interests according to how much we value each interest and their probability of being brought about by our choices. By multiplying these together we should get a single ordering of our choices in terms of the subjective value of the outcome that will be brought about, and then we should choose the highest ranked option.