The limits of consequentialism: an experimental approach
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AuthorAguiar, Fernando; Brañas Garza, Pablo
Universidad de Granada. Departamento de Teoría e Historia Económica
Agent-centred prerogativeDictator gameHybrid theoryReflective equilibrium
Aguiar, F.; Brañas-Garza, P. The limits of consequentialism: an experimental approach. Universidad de Granada. Departamento de Teoría e Historia Económica (2005). (The Papers; 05/17). [http://hdl.handle.net/10481/31478]
In a series of influential papers, Samuel Scheffler argues in favour of an agent-centred prerogative that limits the demands of consequentialism while defending the personal standpoint. More recently, Tim Mulgan has proposed another prerogative as part of a comprehensive consequentialist theory which attempts to deal adequately with some of the problems of Scheffler’s hybrid theory. In both cases, prerogatives are held to be grounded in intuitions or considered moral judgements. But is this really so? In this article we perform two economic experiments using a dictator game in which individuals must make a moral decision –to give or not to give an amount of money to poor people in the Third World. A questionnaire in which the subjects are asked about the reasons for their decision shows that, at least in this case, the prerogatives appear to form part of individuals’ moral decisions. The dictator game provides a useful tool to deal with the narrow reflective equilibrium model; a model which deserves greater interest than it has thus far been given. Experimental economics can be of great utility in approaching the moral intuitions of people.