PoS seminar 7.6. with Erik Angner

At the next Perspectives on Science seminar on Monday 7.6., Erik Angner (Stockholm University) will give a presentation titled “Nudging and the Problem of Knowledge”. The seminar takes place in Zoom from 2 to 4 pm.

Perspectives on Science is a weekly research seminar which brings together experts from science studies and philosophy of science. It is organized by TINT – Centre for Philosophy of Social Science at the University of Helsinki. More information about the seminar here.

To join the seminar, please sign up here.


One common argument against nudging and other behavioral interventions goes like this: (1) The amount of information relevant to developing successful nudges is vast. (2) If we had access to all that information, we would be able to develop successful nudges. (3) But we don’t have access to all that information. So (4) we cannot develop successful nudges. The fundamental problem is often referred to as “the knowledge problem.” The general argument form has a venerable history, reminiscent of figures like F. A. Hayek and Adam Smith. Constructed in this way, however, the argument seems obviously misconceived: it is straightforwardly interpreted as an instance of denying the antecedent – a fallacious argument form. The purpose of this paper is to explore various ways of articulating the argument in more compelling ways, and also to assess it. In all, I find, the knowledge problem is best understood as a practical problem for choice architects and behavioral-interventions teams – not as an insurmountable obstacle.

Author bio:

Erik Angner is Professor of Practical Philosophy at Stockholm University. As a result of serious mission creep, he holds two PhDs – one in Economics and one in History and Philosophy of Science – both from the University of Pittsburgh. He is the author of two books, Hayek and Natural Law and A Course in Behavioral Economics (3rd ed., 2021), as well as multiple journal articles and book chapters on behavioral and experimental economics; the economics of happiness; and the history, philosophy, and methodology of contemporary economics.