Justification, Obligation, and Consumer Motivation

  • Bernard Hodgson
Part of the Studies in Economic Ethics and Philosophy book series (SEEP)


Insofar as the equilibrating events referred to in CCT incorporate cognitive, deliberative processes, the actions following upon such decision-making are susceptible to normative criticism as to their justifiability. For we have observed that the underlying practical reasoning can be viewed as an attempt by the agent-consumer to select an appropriate purchasing strategy on the basis of his ranked desires for commodity-combinations, and his beliefs as to the availability and comparative capacity of sets of commodities to satisfy his desires. In other words, the consumer, if challenged, can give his reasons for his particular action-choices in attempt to justify them. But his practical deliberation is not necessarily foolproof; his beliefs, for instance, might be ill-founded, or, although as we shall see this is a much more contentious issue,’ his goals or desires might be rationally indefensible. Consequently his behaviour, or the practical reasoning leading to it, is also liable to the assessment of a more enlightened external observer.


Moral Obligation Consumer Choice Normative Principle Rational Consumer Psychological Motivation 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 3.
    See S. Toulmin, “Reasons and Causes”, in R. Border and F. Cioffi (eds.), Explanation in the Behavioural Sciences (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1970), pp. 1–26 for a succinct discussion of this claim.Google Scholar
  2. 4.
    See C. G. Hempel, “Explanation in Science and History”, in W. Dray (ed.), Philosophical Analysis and History (New York: Harper and Row, 1966), p. 118, or A. J. Ayer, Man as a Subject for Science (London: University of London, Athlone Press, 1964), pp. 13ff.Google Scholar
  3. 5.
    R. M. Hare, The Language of Morals (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1952), Freedom and Reason (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1963 ) and Moral Thinking ( Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1981 ).Google Scholar
  4. 6.
    R. M. Hare, Descriptivism ( London: Oxford University Press, 1963 ), p. 126.Google Scholar
  5. 7.
    For an instructive discussion of this relationship, see. W. D. Falk, “Ought and Motivation”, in his Ought, Reasons and Morality (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1986), pp. 21–41; T. Nagel, The Possibility of Altruism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1970), Chaps. 1–2; and W. Frankenna, “Obligation and Motivation in Recent Moral Philosophy”, in A. J. Melden (ed.), Essays in Moral Philosophy ( Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1958 ), pp. 40–81.Google Scholar
  6. 8.
    See W. D. Falk, “Ought and Motivation”, for the original distinction. Or see Thomas Nagel, The Possibility of Altruism, Chap. 2, for a classification of philosophers in terms of whether they defend internalist or externalist positions.Google Scholar
  7. 9.
    See, e.g., C. G. Hempel, Aspects of Scientific Explanation, pp. 469ff.Google Scholar
  8. 10.
    As, for example, in the emotivism of A. J. Ayer, Language, Truth and Logic, 2nd edn., (New York: Dover Publications, 1952), Chap. 6, and C. L. Stevenson Ethics and Language (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1944), or the prescriptivism of R. M. Hare (see note 5 to this chapter).Google Scholar
  9. 11.
    The points of this paragraph will be further developed in Chapter 16.Google Scholar
  10. 12.
    K. Klappholz, “Value Judgments and Economics”, pp. 98–99. The view expressed in this quotation is also found in Klappholz’s “Economics and Ethical Neutrality”, in P. Edwards (ed.), Encyclopedia of Philosophy ( New York: Macmillan, 1967 ), p. 451.Google Scholar
  11. 13.
    See K. Klappholz, “Value Judgments and Economics”, pp. 104, 105, and “Economics and Ethical Neutrality”, p. 453.Google Scholar
  12. 14.
    See p. 81 above, note 9 to Chap. 6, and the extended discussion of the “social frame” of neo-classical utility theory in Chap. 11, secs. 3–6 and Chap. 13, sec. 1.Google Scholar
  13. 15.
    The qualifier “blunt” is important here; for there are significant contexts in which a continuance of a distinction between what a consumer actually does and what he ought to do is methodologically useful. It is just that an uncritical and doctrinaire adherence to “Hume’s Law” has often blinded economic methodologists to the fruitfulness in theory construction of recognizing the systemic connection between economic facts and values. This connection will be more fully developed in Chapters 14 and 15 when we discuss the ethico-political conversion of behavioural rules into descriptive laws.Google Scholar
  14. 16.
    Mill, Utilitarianism, p. 7.Google Scholar
  15. 17.
    G. E. Moore, Principia Ethica (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1903), sec. 10; sec. 40.Google Scholar
  16. 20.
    See, for example, H. J. Paton, “The Alleged Independence of Goodness”, in P. A. Schlipp (ed.), The Philosophy of G. E. Moore (Lasalle, Illinois: Open Court, 1942 ), pp. 113–34.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • Bernard Hodgson
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyTrent UniversityPeterboroughCanada

Personalised recommendations