The limits of decision and choice

Gabriel Abend

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Concepts of decision, choice, decision-maker, and decision-making are common practical tools in both social science and natural science, on which scientific knowledge, policy implications, and moral recommendations are based. In this article I address three questions. First, I look into how present-day social scientists and natural scientists use decision/choice concepts. What are they used for? Second, scientists may differ in the application of decision/choice to X, and they may explicitly disagree about the applicability of decision/choice to X. Where exactly do these disagreements lie? Third, I ask how scientists should use decision/choice concepts. What are they correctly and incorrectly used for? I argue that scientists must responsibly attend to a methodological demand: you have to have a principled, non-ad hoc, well-argued-for way of telling where decision/choice applicability ends. Thus, I aim to minimize the risk of conceptual stretching and foster responsible conceptual practices in a large body of scientific work.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)805-841
    Number of pages37
    JournalTheory and Society
    Issue number6
    StatePublished - Dec 30 2018


    • Choice
    • Decision-making
    • Decisionism
    • Logic of inquiry
    • Philosophy of social science
    • Social theory

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • History
    • Sociology and Political Science


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