The Many Faces of Rational Choice Theory
This book is under contract with Cambridge University Press
It is no novelty that during the second half of the twentieth century, substantial attacks have been raised from various sides against the way in which economists have conceptualized human behavior. At the same time, not only have formal theories of rational choice been extensively employed by social scientists; they have also conquered important niches in philosophy, computer science, psychology, international relations, anthropology, etc. Rational choice theories have been regarded in those different disciplines as capable of solving a variety of conceptual, methodological, and epistemic problems. The Many Faces of Rational Choice Theory aims at providing a fresh perspective on persistent debates about the epistemic potentials and limitations of rational choice theory in philosophy and the social sciences alike. In the book, I critically engage with the two opposed camps from a philosophical and a historical perspective. By tracing the intellectual roots of rational choice theory, the various modifications it has undergone in economics, and the justifications it has been defended with by economists, this monograph not only provides a comprehensive and innovative account of rational choice theory in terms of its history. In suggesting a new method for appraisal and applying it to representative instances of rational choice explanations throughout the history of economics, the book also offers a context-depended and problem-related assessment of rational choice theory conducted on a case-by-case basis, thereby doing justice to each 'face' of rational choice theory and its capacity to solve particular, but often fundamentally distinct problems. This monograph will be of interest to economist and social scientists more generally, to philosophers of the social sciences, and science study scholars, including historians and sociologists of science.