Sentimental fools: A critique of Amartya Sen's notion of commitment

Elias L. Khalil

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


Commitment is problematic because one sometimes pursues it against one's interest. To solve it, the paper proposes a distinction between 'non-binding' and 'binding' commitments. Non-binding commitment is about ambition, such as becoming a great chef, which bolsters welfare in the pecuniary sense as well as self-respect. In contrast, 'binding commitment' is about honesty. While it diminishes welfare, it augments self-integrity. The neoclassical view reduces both commitments to interest, while the multiple-self approach separates both commitments from interest. The separation permits the confusion of sentimental fools, who enter commitments without regard to interest, with rational sentimentalists, who take interest into consideration.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)373-386
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Economic Behavior and Organization
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 1999


  • Binding commitment
  • Disgrace (shame)
  • Embarrassment
  • Guilt
  • Lethargic will
  • Non-binding commitment
  • Rational fools
  • Rational sentimentalists
  • Sentimental fools
  • Substantive interest
  • Substantive preference
  • Symbolic preference (self-respect and self-integrity)

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