RBE I Workshop: Bruna Ingrao, "The Imaginative Faculty. Cognition in the Arts versus Rationality in Economics"

A Historical Perspective

Collegio Carlo Alberto, Moncalieri (Torino, Italy)
April 16, 2010

Dipartimento di Economia, Università di Roma La Sapienza.

The Imaginative Faculty. Cognition in the Arts versus Rationality in Economics


Conceiving the way markets work means conceiving the cognitive capabilities which traders use meeting in exchange.  Both purely intellectual and relational abilities are involved in market transactions, though in economic literature the first ones captured most of the attention. Along the twentieth century cognitive capabilities have been at the core of controversies in game theory, macroeconomics, economics of information, industrial organization. Research in behavioural economics underlined that people are not optimizing performers according to the paradigm of algorithmic rationality assumed as the normative standard of human cognition in mainstream economics since the marginalist revolution. People are prone to commit fallacies or systematic mistakes in logical reasoning and to violate coherence in choice. 

The paper argues that the divergence from the paradigm of algorithmic rationality has been argued mainly from the pessimistic side, underlying the limits of human cognitive capabilities. On the contrary, the author underlines the effectiveness of human intelligence in performing rational, constructive tasks, neither through routines nor through algorithmic rationality, but through the visionary capability that is the proper mark of human thought. The plastic power of imaginative intelligence is illustrated with reference to artwork, showing how perceptive illusions are used as linguistic instruments in the arts. The author underlines the importance of imaginative intelligence in a wide spectrum of economic activities.

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