Amartya Sen’s 75th Birthday Party

by Ingrid Robeyns on June 3, 2008

Amartya Sen turns 75 later this year (on November 3rd, to be precise), and we are going to celebrate this. In academic style, of course. “Kaushik Basu”: and “Ravi Kanbur”: have edited a 2-volume Festschrift, aptly called “Arguments for a Better World“: I am not sure when Sen is going to read those 1400 pages, but that detail shouldn’t spoil the party. And Basu and Kanbur are also organising, together with the Institute for Human Development “a conference”: to celebrate his birthday. That event will take place in New Delhi on the 19th and 20th of December. “The Call for Papers”:, which so far I haven’t seen circulating, is only open to young economists and social scientists, with ‘young’ being defined as those under 40. It’s a pity, though, that political philosophers are not invited to submit papers, given Sen’s important contributions to that field.



John Emerson 06.03.08 at 1:13 pm

Sen’s definition of rationality (“subjecting one’s choices to reasoned scrutiny”) strikes me as perfectly fine, but I’m at a loss to see how his version of the rational man can be used for modeling economic behavior. Economics’ traditional definitions of rationality tend to be anti-empirical and/or sociopathic, but at least they’re convenient for modelling.


Mikhail Emelianov 06.03.08 at 3:06 pm

CFP oddly announces – in the body of the call – that this conference is in “owner” of professor Amartya Sen – strange slip…


Tom Donahue 06.03.08 at 3:51 pm

Not to mention his many contributions to moral philosophy, which date back to articles in PHILOSOPHY and THE PHILOSOPHICAL QUARTERLY in 1966 and 1967 and forward to a 2006 article in JOURNAL OF PHILOSOPHY.


John Emerson 06.03.08 at 8:22 pm


Folks, we’re having a gossip harmonic convergence and Unfogged is down.

1. Ted Kennedy had brain surgery a couple of days ago.
2. Eleanor Mondale returned to work today after brain surgery.
3. Bill Clinton was just rumored to have been involved with Mondale.
4. Obama’s making his victory speech in Minnesota tonight. Presumably Eleanor will be there, probably covering it.

This is just a perfect storm.



antirealist 06.03.08 at 9:55 pm

A Festschrift for a 75 year-old? Surely not.


John Emerson 06.03.08 at 10:14 pm

Is Leiter’s stiff assurance banked by some kind of philosophical accomplishment? His book on Nietzsche couldn’t have been it.

Positivism predates logical positivism, and survived it. Leiter is always claiming that there’s no such thing as analytic philosophy, and I only wish that that was true. The philosophy that dares not speak its name, I guess.


harry b 06.03.08 at 10:43 pm

john, #4 and #6 are both opaque to me. Do they have something to do with Ingrid’s post?


Conrad Barwa 06.03.08 at 10:45 pm

Not too sure that Sen’s contributions to political or moral philosophy can be classed as ‘important’ per se. Interesting and relevant to his work on development and welfare economics but it is pretty much behind what a lot of other social scientists have covered, imo. His work on economics though really is original and has covered new ground.


John Emerson 06.03.08 at 10:57 pm

6 responds to 5. 4 is off-topic, as indicated by the || |>


mitterko 06.04.08 at 12:45 am

Conrad, it’s awfully clear that the capabilities approach as a candidate for the currency of distributive justice has been largely influential in contemporary political philosophy, whether you agree with it or not.


vivian 06.04.08 at 1:23 am

Philosphers and over-the-hill econ/social scientists will just have to have our own party honoring Dr. Sen.


philosopher 06.04.08 at 1:39 am

A festschrift at 75 is pretty unusual. Has anyone heard of one for a philosopher at that age? Maybe with increased life expectancies, the timing of these things are changing.


Ingrid Robeyns 06.04.08 at 4:21 am

philosopher: why not have a Festschrift, even if it’s unusual? Sen is still very active despite his age, his work has been influential in all sorts of areas inside and outside academia, he is by many regarded to be the moral face of economics, most of his students (perhaps all, but that I cannot verify) are very fond of him as a human being, … what more reasons do we need? There was “an earlier Festschrift for Sen”:, which was written for his 60th Birthday. So that’s 15 years ago – I think it’s fine to have another party this year.


roger 06.05.08 at 6:40 pm

Actually, I think we should abolish birthdays altogether and just have festschrifts! Of course, it might be difficult for the five year old crowd to listen to 20 minute papers being read out in their honor. You know how the little tykes are when you critique their fundamental presuppositions. But there’s always the carrot and stick approach ( you can have cake afterwards, but if you keep crying during your uncle Joe’s reading of Teddy Smith Jr., Satisficing, and the Quandary of Swing Set queuing, you’ll have to go to your room ).

Festschrift cards, festschrift party favors. It is the wave of the future!


Sock Puppet of the Great Satan 06.05.08 at 11:10 pm

“CFP oddly announces – in the body of the call – that this conference is in “owner” of professor Amartya Sen – strange slip…”



a different philosopher 06.06.08 at 6:13 am

Is Leiter’s stiff assurance banked by some kind of philosophical accomplishment?


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