Mistakes about preferences in the social sciences

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15 Scopus citations


Preferences are the central notion in mainstream economic theory, yet economists say little about what preferences are. This article argues that preferences in mainstream positive economics are comparative evaluations with respect to everything relevant to value or choice, and it argues against three mistaken views of preferences: (1) that they are matters of taste, concerning which rational assessment is inappropriate, (2) that preferences coincide with judgments of expected self-interested benefit, and (3) that preferences can be defined in terms of choices.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3-25
Number of pages23
JournalPhilosophy of the Social Sciences
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2011
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Philosophy
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


  • positive economics
  • preferences
  • rational choice theory
  • revealed preference

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