European Journal for Philosophy of Science

, Volume 4, Issue 1, pp 75–94 | Cite as

Success conditions for nudges: a methodological critique of libertarian paternalism

  • Conrad Heilmann
Original paper in Philosophy of Economics


This paper provides a methodological analysis of Libertarian Paternalism, as put forward in the book Nudge by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein (Yale University Press, 2008). Libertarian Paternalism aims to use the accumulated findings of behavioural economics in order to assist decision-makers to make better choices. The philosophical debate about this proposal has focused on normative issues with regards to this proposal. This paper analyses Libertarian Paternalism descriptively and points out four methodological conditions for successful Nudges. On that basis, a methodological critique of Libertarian Paternalism is mounted: the success conditions suggest that Nudges might be even harder to implement and to justify than commonly assumed in the philosophical debate.


Behavioural economics Nudge Libertarian paternalism Dual process 



Many thanks to Luc Bovens, Foad Dizadji-Bahmani, Michiru Nagatsu, Alice Obrecht, Julian Reiss, Ingrid Robeyns, David Teira, and two anonymous reviewers of European Journal for Philosophy of Science for very helpful comments on previous versions of this article. I also thank audiences at the London School of Economics (LSE) and the Erasmus Institute for Philosophy and Economics (EIPE) at Erasmus University Rotterdam for their feedback.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Erasmus Institute for Philosophy and Economics (EIPE), Faculty of PhilosophyErasmus University RotterdamRotterdamThe Netherlands

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