HomeFEU Colloquiumvol. 1 no. 1 (2007)

The Role of Moral Philosophy in Welfare Economics (Amartya Sen’s Critique of Utilitarianism)

Eda Lou S. Ibasco

Discipline: Economics



The paper deals with an interpretation of Amartya Sen’s critique of Utilitarianism and attempts to explore the important connections between moral philosophy and modern economics. As the dominant tradition in Welfare Economics, Utilitarianism— construed as involving happiness or desire-fulfillment, with its requirements of welfarism, sum-ranking and consequentialism— has been argued to be an inadequate foundation for evaluation by narrowing interests and states of persons into matters of utility or disutility only. Such emphasis on utility and disutility ignores other important information that may be relevant to the exercise of persons’ interests and states assessment. With its critical problems of “physical condition” neglect and “valuation” neglect, Utilitarianism is a narrow and inadequate evaluative criterion since it is largely grounded on the mental attitude of the person and avoids direct reference to the person’s own valuational exercise.