Amartya Sen

OPHI Research in Progress

Draft entry for the Edward Elgar Handbook of Ethics and Economics.

This chapter explores five conceptual interconnections between ethics and economics which Sen has developed in writings in philosophy and welfare economics. The first 2 section introduces the need to scrutinize the informational basis of moral principles underlying economic analyses, drawing attention to the field’s narrow informational framework. The second and third sections focus on information pluralism, first
introducing capabilities and opportunity freedoms as the internally plural space that Sen proposes for the evaluation of social or economic arrangements, then describing process freedoms such as agency and democratic practice. The fourth section, on principle pluralism, argues for the introduction of plural principles into economic analyses rather than relying wholly on Pareto optimality. The fifth section presents Sen’s arguments that human motivations are complex. In particular, he says that assumptions of uniform selfinterest or of internal consistency of choice are misleading, as is the neglect of our imperfect obligations and responsibility. The concluding section, on justice, advocates an incomplete, maximizing comparative approach which can rank (or judge as unrankable) existing states of affairs and policy options, attending to the features introduced above, such as opportunity and process freedoms, plural principles, incomplete assessments and

Citation: Alkire, S. (2008). 'Amartya Sen', OPHI Research in Progress 3a, Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI), University of Oxford.

Amartya Sen, poverty measurement, biography

Sabina Alkire
Series Name
OPHI Research in Progress
Publication date
Publication Number
RP 3a