Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Should the state found art ?: Tyler Cowen's view.

After so much time “wasted” on criticizing welfarist values and the way welfarists sees facts about values, I found myself having little time to add in my dissertation some analysis of perfectionist values, their role in shaping institutions, and their power of justification.

Anyway, as you may have noticed, I am finally starting to put the issue of perfectionist values on the table at least in my own blog, in a very random and disorganized fashion, as it is typical of my way of thinking.

Today I would like to present you and to write my own reflections about a very interesting paper I've been reading lately, namely the introduction to “Symbolic Goods:The Liberal State in Pursuit of Art and Beauty” by Tyler Cowen, which you can download from the net at this address http://www.gmu.edu/jbc/Tyler/pewintro.pdf or by clicking here. Tyler is a professor of economics at George Mason University. By the way, Tyler Cowen is a blogger too, and I recommend you to visit his blog. Following a custom in the blogger's community, I will refer to him as “Tyler” instead than as prof. Cowen. I hope he will not get offended.

The introduction to his book sounds quite interesting and near to my research interests. So I'm probably going to buy the book. I got the distinctive feeling that its writing is guided by philosophical ideas, rather than economic ones, or rather, economic ideas in the service of philosophical ones, as it should be.

1. What is symbolic value?

Let me sum up the idea that stroke me the most in his approach. Tyler wants to deal with the idea of art as a symbolic good. To my eyes, he puts together two different conceptions of what is a symbolic good, one coming from a roughly empiricist tradition (esp. Hume, Hayek, etc.) and another one coming from a tradition that Tyler himself identifies as the aesthetic tradition in political theory. This tradition includes, as we discover at p. 17:
Plato's Republic,
Giambattista Vico’s New Science,
Kant’s Critique of Judgment,
the British Hegelians,
John Dewey’s Experience and Art,
Eric Voegelin,
Hans-Georg Gadamer's Truth and Method.

An immediately odd thing, from my point of view, is that Tyler adds Adam Smith to the names in this very tradition, even he realizes that this would strike some readers as an oddity. Tyler has in mind a different type of dichotomy from mine: he opposes the “aesthetic tradition” in political theory to the “Hobbesian tradition”, centred on issues of stability. This is somewhat different from the opposition between an empiricist tradition which tends to deny the fact that symbolic goods have a sort of “irreducible” importance, and the idea of politics based on “aesthetic” ideas, which has, as Tyler realizes, a clear “perfectionist”, and latu sensu “romantic” ring of it (which maybe explains why “economist are reluctant to to admit the independent relevance of aesthetic matters” as Tyler himself writes at p. 18).

As said, Tyler, on the contrary, tries to put together a notion of symbolic good which derives from the empiricist tradition (I will try to explain what I mean by this in a moment), with the idea of symbolic value which is more “continental” and “romantic”, and is usually connected to a different type of anthropology. Notice that I am not laying forward this consideration as a criticism, but only as a remarkable fact: it is probably one of Tyler's aspirations that the two interpretation of symbolic goods be put to work together and synthesized rather than opposed to each other, so that the real opposition turns to be the one between “Hobbesian” models of politics and “non-Hobbesian” ones. (Notice that a somewhat similar operation has been attempted in the past by one of my favorite philosophers: J.S. Mill.)

Tyler's “empiricist” understanding of symbolic goods emerges clearly from these lines:
“I define a symbolic good as offering a feeling or perception of affiliation. An individual may affiliate by donating money to a university, charity, or artistic program, thereby associating with a particular cause. A teenager may go to a Madonna concert to express her solidarity for feminism. Rich yuppie lawyers collect contemporary art to look “cool.” Many people buy fancy looking books to put them on the coffee table, while others go to the opera to project a cultured image, hoping to enter the appropriate social circles.” (p. 3)
Notice all these typical elements of the empiricist interpretation, included in the quoted passage:
  1. The symbolic nature of the good is defined in terms of the “attitudes” of its user (“a feeling or perception of affiliation”. Items with an alleged high aesthetic values (contemporary art, fancy looking books, opera) are placed at the same level as what is normally considered to be “low” art, such as Madonna concert. Even more striking than that, the attitudes which “explain”, “create”, or “prove the existence of” the symbolic value of a valuable good (yuppies buying art to look cool, etc.) do not seem to derive or reflect in any meaningful sense the aesthetic value of the object in question, the properties – one may think – which give the object its symbolic value. (Such as, in the case of the book, the ideas written in it.) All these examples all strike us as somewhat “deviant” cases of artistic and cultural fruition, and do not seem to point to the most important aspect of the phenomenon.
  2. In this picture, there does seems to be at most an extrinsic connection between aesthetic value, which we may conceive as a form of intrinsic value, and symbolic value, which, as defined, appears to be a form of “extrinsic value”. Symbolic value, in other words, does not correlate with the intrinsic value of the object, but with its usability or utility, understood in very general terms. (A book may be useful to me as a symbol of status.) This is of course a logical consequence of (1) differences in the intrinsic value of things tend to disappear, or to appear “distorted” when looked at through an empiricist lens.
  3. This approach fits well with the way economists typically analyze social phenomena. What gives things symbolic value is (roughly) the ability to provoke motivational responses. Thus, we must ascribe symbolic value to things that have no apparent “utility”, such as books or works of art, in order to explain the fact that people desire them and are willing to pay for having them. From an empiricist perspective, Tyler's move is the recognition of the fact that symbolic goods have some sort, maybe a distinctive sort, of utility. But I am not sure whether the distinctive sort of utility which symbolic value has is really captured by those examples in the quote. In this perspective, placing a book on a coffee table, or reading it count both as aspects of a book's utility. Since symbolic value is connected to utility, understood in this way, it is connected to every possible way of using the good in question. But there is clearly as sense in which we would intuitively regard the first as a deviant and the second as an appropriate, type of use.

In other passages, Tyler seems to be understand the nature symbolic value in a less reductionist fashion, and to recognize its intrinsic importance as a fundamental way of understanding human beings, a way of being irreducible to utilitarian values and explanations:
“Man is not just a thinking being, he is also an imagining being and a creating being. Man loves symbols.” (15)

“The best-known political theorists of the Anglo-American tradition – Hobbes, Locke, Hume, and Madison, to name a few -- are concerned primarily with the practical dimension of politics, rather than with the aesthetic or the imaginative. They ask how political order is possible, how property rights should be defined, and how the general welfare can be secured. [...] These theories have a Hobbesian slant, by focusing on how to protect individuals against “the perennial evils of human life – physical suffering, the destructions and mutilations of war, poverty and starvation, enslavement and humiliation. They do not start by asking how our capacities to imagine and manipulate symbols should shape political institutions.[...] I shift my focus to the aesthetic and symbolic dimensions. When I use the word aesthetic I refer to the arts, as they stimulate the imagination, show beauty, and entertain us. By the symbolic dimension, I refer to the demand for representations, images, and symbols, independent of their immediate practical benefits.” (16)
Notice the clause “independent of their immediate practical benefits” in the closing line: it does not fit that well with the idea that the symbolic value of a book may consist in its instrumental use in terms of augmenting social status, hence esteem, hence pleasure or satisfaction.
“Economists in particular are reluctant to admit the independent relevance of aesthetic matters, which they try to reduce to preferences. [...] I nonetheless seek to reclaim an emphasis on the aesthetic and the symbolic as starting points for liberal philosophy and indeed classical liberal philosophy, which favors a limited role for the state. I take beauty to be one of the strongest justifications for a free, open, diverse, and decentralized society. A free society not only allows individuals to pursue their own notions of beauty, but it arguably leads to an overall beauty, relative to the alternatives.” 18
Such quotes are really striking from a scholar trained in economics; and moreover, they seem to me to be in a certain tension with the “empiricist” approach towards values laid forward in the explication of symbolic value.

2. The book's main normative question:

Let us come back to the main interests of Tyler's books, as they emerge from the introduction. The object of the book, it seems to me, is not mainly that of giving an abstract characterization of symbolic value, or a good empirical description of the American Art Policy (§1), but the practical, normative, ethical, moral question “what should art policies be?” (§2). Hence it is clearly a book in political theory or political philosophy in its widest connotation.

Tyler recognizes that this is a controversial issue, and writes that it ought to be even more controversial and publicly discussed that it tends to be now. Correctly, I believe, Tyler identifies the issue of the public founding of art as one which is able to short-circuit the most established self-representation of our selves and our states as liberal ones. The reason for this is clear: the issue of the founding of the art raises the problem of liberal neutrality towards the good, and it does not fit well with the utilitarian self-understanding of economic science, the idea that institutions are valuable and “to be promoted” only in so far they are can be shown to lead to more human welfare or well-being; which clearly are the two most widespread modes of self-representation of liberal thinking. He puts this idea in words much better than I can:

“The issue of arts funding, more than any other, forces the aesthetic dimension of politics and economics onto the table. How should government policy treat goods that are both commercial products and public symbols? How are we to weigh aesthetic ends against non-aesthetic values? What role should the government play in supporting or defining matters aesthetic? How much should we care about "art" as opposed to "the status aura of art," and must those two ideas always arrive tied together in a bundle? [...] Arts policy forces us to confront our views, sometimes inchoate, on how aesthetics and symbolic values fit into a larger political and economic picture.” (16-17)
The importance and the absence of a clear direction in our self-undertanding as liberal or libertarians about this issue is discussed at different levels: from the empirical point of view, Tyler tries to show that no community organized in a state can avoid the question of the support of art, culture, and other symbolic goods, and that as a matter of fact, even US, which may be in the imagination of a lot of us the paradigm of a state which leaves the market take care of itself, currently subsidizes the arts more than it could be thought:
“A government will endure only if it provides a credible set of symbols to its citizens, and arts policy has become part of the symbolic package of the modern state.” (4) “No matter how strong markets and the profit motive may be, government influences the terms of artistic production and thus the content of art. The United States, the focus of this book, is no exception to this claim.” (p. 5) “I seek to rebut the common belief that America has no cultural policy, or that the American regime is fundamentally laissez-faire in culture. While the American government has never adopted an official cultural position, American governments at various levels actively influence and promote the arts.” (p. 5)
This seems a promising beginning for convincing people of the importance of the debate in political theory concerning perfectionist values. Just as a claimed in my post about governments and eating policies, we cannot simply close our eyes towards the fact that value judgments of a perfectionist sort, willingly or unwillingly, are going to have an influence on policies, no matter how liberal, libertarian or neutral a state declares itself to be. So it is better to confront the issue head on: which are the best perfectionist policies and how do perfectionist values enter political justification?

3. Tyler's normative position.

Before concluding this brief presentation of what looks like an interesting book, and certainly as a book facing interesting problems, let me try to summarize Tyler's positions on the central issue, as it emerges from the introduction:

Tyler argues both that a. the government should not try to stay neutral towards the arts and b. the government should not significantly increase the amount of direct subsidies to the arts, in a way akin to the European system. (see p. 10)

This is an interesting position, in so far as most of the people who advocate state neutrality on these issues, seem to assume that their opponent are necessarily going to want the state to put its hands into their pockets in order to found something that they may perceive as having no objective value at all, as the effect of some perverse form of social conditioning and self-deception combined with an elitist attitude (Tyler quotes some funny examples of artists that have been assisted by the National Education Agency, e.g. Karen Finley smeared her naked body with chocolate, to simulate excrement, and howled and shrieked during her one-woman show. The NEA once funded an anthology that contained a one-word poem ("lighght", by Aram Saroyan).)

Subsidizing the art, as Tyler notes, is perceived in a libertarian perspective as an illegitimate form of coercion. (It is interesting to note, from this point of view, that their position does not express a sensibility too different from that of certain liberals who are ready to invoke massive state intervention for purposes of social justice, like John Rawls in “A Theory of Justice”, who is are notoriously skeptical of the possibility for a state to justify the founding of the arts to its citizens, in terms of claims about its value. See esp.§50. Rawls argues that “the public founds for the arts and sciences may be provided through the exchange branch. [...] there are no restrictions on the reasons citizens may have for imposing upon themselves the requisite taxes [...] since the cohercive machinery of government is used in this case only to overcome the problems of isolation and assurance, and one is taxed without its consent.”)

On the contrary, Tyler argues, the state can allow itself to be non-neutral, and have the production of more and better symbolic goods among its goals (see the quotation above about a free society leading to more overall beauty than other alternatives). But it should not enforce these goals through coercion. The real question concern institutions such as copyright laws: their justification may be thrown into doubt.

Tyler's argument, as I could understand it from the introduction, seems to be an instrumental one: drawing from Hayek on the idea that the only duty of institutions is that of support the generation and dissemination of knowledge, the argument seems to be that intervention on the institutions which sustain the market of ideas, which foster the dissemination of knowledge, are going to be more effective in the long run, in terms of production of innovative cultural products, than a centralized institutional approach, in which the decisions about which types of arts and cultural production is going to be financed are in the hands of a group of grey bureaucrats and their advisers. (The empirical proof of this, should derive from the more innovative nature of American art and cultural trends as opposed to the European counterparts.)

(Another interesting remark, Tyler makes in the introduction, is that even “American” type of founding would still be better for US, both the US and Europe gain from the fact that Europe endorses a different policy. Tyler's thesis seems to be that the advantages of specialization in terms of different types of cultural production (tradition oriented vs. innovation oriented), coupled with the mutual advantages of trade, are superior to that of the endorsement of Tyler's favorite model at the world level.)

In conclusion I recommend all of you at least to read the introduction to his book which is available on-line (I cannot recommend the book yet, since I have not read it), which I found already more intellectually stimulating than many other things I happen to read.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

The necessary-condition interpretation of the subjectivity of welfare: a counterargument.

Wayne Sumner believes thatwell-being evaluations as opposed to other value judgments are subject-relative: well-being states are good for the individual whose well-being is in question. He argues that a theory of well-being can account for the fact that well-being sources are good for the person whose well-being is in question, only if it is subjective.

A theory is subjective, according to Sumner, only if contains or implies the principle:

NC: for all X, X increases my well-being (directly or immediately) only if I have a pro-attitude towards X.

Is NC true? We have no good reasons to believe it. Here is the argument:

Definition of pro attitude:

“my attitude [towards something] is positive (what philosophers used to call a pro-attitude) if I favour the thing or am favourably disposed towards it, negative (a con-attitude) if I view it unfavourably.” (Sumner 1996: 36)

Further explanation of what is meant by pro-attitude:

Generally speaking, we may say that I have an attitude toward something when the thing matters to me, or I care about it, or it is an object of concern to me, or I mind it, or (in the more formal psychological terminology) it is valenced for me. (1996: 36)


Prima-facie objection: It is conceptually possible – as many people think – for morality to require from p to do F, when F-ing entails a loss of well-being, and it is possible for p to act as morality requires. Many people think this is not only conceptually possible, but a real possibility: people do act contrary to their interests, for moral reasons. In all such cases, p is not favorably disposed towards her well-being in an evident manner, as p views the acquisition of more of it unfavorably in the circumstances.

One may argue that even if p does not have the pro-attitude “viewing the acquisition of more well-being favorably” p must have some other pro-attitude towards what would constitute her well-being. But why should we be persuaded into thinking this? In at least some of such cases, I believe, it is at least arguable that p does not have any pro-attitude towards the good that would supposedly increment her well-being.

Virtuous agent objection: Suppose that the agent in the previous example is a very virtuous agent. It is not absurd to think that when this agent becomes aware of the existence of a moral reason not to F, awareness of this reason inhibits any attitude towards the tangible good that failing to F would bring about. Something similar may even apply to an ascetic, when he ceases to look for things that would increase his or her well-being in order to practice an ascetic way of life.

Some people may object that we can admit the possibility of acting morally against one's interest without falsifying NC. There are cases in which one acts against what is in one's interest: cases in which people choose not to pursue something which IS a source of well-being, because they have a moral reason not to. We may admit that this is a possibility, and even that it happens. But we may also suppose that all the cases of "moral self-sacrifice" are cases in which a person has some pro-attitude towards the source of well-being.

This objection is correct: the concrete possibility that an agent fails to do what would maximize her well-being, because she ought morally not to, does not, in fact, entail the falsity of NC. But the real question is whether NC is plausible, or whether we have good reasons to doubt it. The idea that people can voluntary renounce to a gain of well-being gives plausibility to the idea that people can suppress all their pro-attitudes towards it. The intuition here is that in certain human types, the awareness of a moral reason can inhibit the existence of many pro-attitudes, including things that are usually considered sources of well-being. The other intuition is that if something is a source of well-being, the mere fact that someone ceases to have a pro-attitudes towards it cannot turn it into no such source. This idea can be reinforced by looking at the following example:

Conscious suppression objection: suppose that you find your boss's girlfriend very, very, very sexually attractive. You certainly think it would be enjoyable to have sex with her. But you fear that this desire of yours would cause you to misbehave in the presence of your boss and his girlfriend, which may have dreadful consequences upon your career. For this reason, you decide to work upon yourself to suppress the pro-attitude in question. At a certain point you still believe that it would be enjoyable to have sex with that woman (meaning: since you have rational knowledge of the fact that none of woman's properties has changed, you would still answer, if asked, that her skin looks delicious, her curves are dangerous: you can infer that's how they must be); yet, you do not have any pro-attitude towards having sex with her. We could have evidence of this fact in terms of your behavior and your mental life, (e.g. certain thoughts would not pop up spontaneously in your head, etc.). It is at least arguable that, despite the change in your attitudes, having sex with this woman would still be enjoyable, and a source of well-being (provided that it would have been such before.)

Maybe this thesis could be made true by adopting a more precise definition of “pro-attitude” or of the relevant “circumstances”. For example, one may think that NC can never fail to hold relative the attitudes one has at the moment of the fruition of a good. But this is not what NC says.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

On perfectionist ideals, markets, recognition, and self-knowledge

Let us try to put together these four ideas. First of all, perfectionist values. There are different conceptions of perfectionist values. The most "conservative" conception, we may say, considers perfectionist values as values connected with realizing an entity's true nature, where the true nature of the entity is already given in virtue of some deep metaphysical or supernatural fact (i.e. metaphysical essences, the will of a god.)

But I believe that perfectionist values can be given more space than the space we would give them if we thought them according to the "conservative" model.

An important perfectionist idea, one that, I believe, makes sense even to people who do not believe in metaphysical essences and the existence of God, divine plans and the like, is the idea of fulfilling one's talents.

What is a talent? A talent is part of a person's nature and identity, meaning one of the important characteristics which give a man or woman an individual identity. (That make it distinguishable from others). But whether something counts as a talent is a social fact. As we have all learned by Rawls and others, it is extremely hard to think about "merits" or "natural abilities" outside the context of a basic social structure which establishes what count as a merit or as an ability.

Progressive perfectionist thinking does not find that this is a problem. It can be part of the concept of a talent that it has to be publicly recognized. An important perfectionist idea is that of an obligation to care about and develop a talent or ability that one may have.

Let us try to understand this perfectionist perspective about value. First of all it is a value grounding what we may call an obligation towards oneself (call it moral, or not, does not matter, in so far as I find this labelling issue entiretly stupid). This obligation is not different, in a sense, from the obligation of fulfilling a promise: you realize that there is a fact giving you a reason to act a certain way, a reason which does not derive from what you happen to desire.

Many people, I believe, would not reject the intuition that people who have a certain talent have some sort of obligation to develop it. In common language, we express this thought by saying things like that a person that has certain talent should not waste it. I believe we are all familiar with this type of evaluation. We are also familiar with the idea that developing a talent requires sacrifices. And, as Dworkin writes
"Is is in fact a cliché that great artists often work, not out of enjoyment (even in the widest sense of enjoyment), but rather in constant misery simply because it is not possible for them simply not to write poetry or music or paint. A poet who says this may well think that a life he spent in any other way would be, in tthe most fundamental sense, a failure. But he might well think that the conspiracy of talents and beliefs that made this true was bad for him, meaning only that his life would be more enjoyable if he lacked these talents or did not have the belief, which he could not however shake, that a life of creating poetry in misery and despair was al things considered the msot valuable life for him to lead." (Sovereign Virtue, p. 34)

This cliché sounds true to me. And it is part of the perfectionist idea that one that discovers to have certain talent, e.g. for creating art, and has a full grasp of why a certain ability is a talent, i.e. of the value which she is able to create, ought to care about developing it, even if one may have a less enjoyable life as a result

One of the questions that naturally arise is whether by saying that people with a special talent should not waste them we are regarding the "good" of developing these talents as a good from the point of these peopleor as a good for other people..
It would be of course a good things, for other people, if people with a talent for music or art develop them, but would it be good for the person with the talent? I believe that we can understand the "duty" to care about and develop one's talents as a duty that comes from within, not as a duty to others.

This idea makes best sense of the point of view expressed by the people in Dworkin's example. The person who has a an artistic talent feels that failing to realize that talent because of lack of effort, or fear, or unwillingness to make certain sacrifices would deprive his or her life of value, of what is valuable from her point of view.
This value is not the sort of moral value that derives from the obligation of making the life of other people happy if one can. The idea that one ought to care and develop one's talents, if one has some expresses a demand of reason, the sort of demand we express by saying that one should try to do something valuable with one's life, of responding in the best way to the sort of "luck" one has.
Now I know that certain people do not find any meaning in these sort of ideas, because they believe that one can be obligated only towards others and there are no "categorical" injunctions (meaning, valid apart from what one desires) about how one should live. I believe this idea is mistaken. The idea that one ought, meaning, has reasons to, develop a talent one has is an idea many people have, and a typically perfectionist one.

Now let us consider the application of perfectionist values to our decisions.
Many people's decisions about what to do are derived from ideals rather than calculation of utility. Many people decide their future not mainly in terms of prospects of acquisition of objective (instrumental) goods like income, but mainly in terms of judgments about what has value. If what we said about perfectionist values is true, one aspects of these judgments should be the goal to develop those talents that one discovers to have.

This may ring true especially to people who try to make a career in philosophy or involved in other "vocational" training. (Playing piano, etc...). Such a person may think that he or she has additional reasons to pursue certain careers, beside the fact that he or she has good chances to succeed beside alternative careers, or that it would help others most to do so, etc....

One important aspects of such choices is how to develop knowledge about one's talents. Intelligent choices about one's talents may be difficult to make for a variety of reasons. The first one is bias coming from the ideas of one's set and uncritical views about what has value. It is a common experience to find people trapped in a career which does not suit them, for example because they do not have the right mentality for it, or the required abilities, because of some values that they have, which are not really authentic.

For example I had a cousin who was unsuccessful in the high school (now he is doing pretty well at the university.) He chose the wrong sort of high school, including a lot of humanities, mainly because he was concerned with matters of social status (his reason was the fact that humanistic high school education is associated with a higher social status, in his idea, than a technical one.)

This ended up costing his parents a lot of money (about 10000 euros) for private educational support and in him getting his diploma four years later than he should have. If he had chosen a different type of education he would have probably entered the university three or four years before and spare his parents a lot of money, as shown by the fact that he is now a quite successful student of engineering, only because he can see the point of learning maths and physics.

Now this is clearly an example of a person's choice dictated by unreflective prudential reasoning and especially a criticizable conformist and elitist attitude. This is quite an extreme case of a very general phenomenon. Richard Brand ("a theory of the good and the right") thought that a lot of our preferences are formed by spontaneous psychological processes which produce irrational desires and aversions. He quoted several sources of such biases, all deriving from the fact that our experiences shape our desires in a way which escapes our rational control, and the experiences which elicit our reactions tend to produce profiles of responses which we would not endorse if we reflected critically about them.

Brandt believed that having rational desires was mainly a matter of freeing oneself from such biases. He developed the idea of "cognitive psychotherapy" to define what counts as a rational desire. A rational desire is one that would survive if one "repeatedly brought to mind, with full belief and maximal vividness, all the knowable facts that would tend either to weaken or to strenghten the desire or aversion". (See Richard Brandt Rationality, Egoism, and Morality (in Symposium: Ethical Egoism) The Journal of Philosophy, Vol. 69, No. 20)

I do not agree with Brand's view that the notion of a person's good can be defined in terms of informed preference, but I believe that something like cognitive psycho-therapy makes a lot of sense in the light of the problem they were supposed to solve: namely that people's feelings in favor or against a certain career are often influenced by irrational sources, such as ideological indoctrination, the desire to please one's parents. As Brandt realized, people's views about what activities have value and what don't are often the reflection of parochial prejudices. And a person's ideas about which activities have value are likely to shape her ideas about which talents one has.

But the idea of cognitive psychotherapy has various problems. For one, cognitive psycho-therapy cannot guarantee that a person would cease to have a certain desire, e.g. staying in a certain school because of the status connected with being a student of that school. Maybe a person does cognitive psycho-therapy cannot free herself from the desire of social status.

Here is where the ideas of recognition of one's talents through the market enter our discourse. Entering market transactions provides something similar to cognitive psycho-therapy, in so far as the market provides incentives to develop the talents which one really have, and disincentive to invest on careers for which one has little talent. In this way, it strongly motivates people to discover their strong and weak points, and to be earnest with themselves in assessing one's abilities. The process of discovering one's real talents works similarly to cognitive psycho-therapy, because it gives an incentive avoid self-deception and those believes which derive from cultural indoctrination.

In this way, entering a market foster self-knowledge and an earnest picture of the self, even when this goes against culturally acquired prejudices. We can call this process "market - driven self-knowledge." Market - driven self-knowledge is an important process, because we all tend to lie to ourselves about out talents and abilities as compared to those of other people, since these are often very significant aspects of our psychological identity. We tend to regard as good for us only those activities which our parents and the people around us believe to be valuable, and this often means that we prefer a career that fits with those value judgments at an unreasonable cost.

Now let us introduce recognition. The self-knowledge which arises from interacting with the market, as opposed to cognitive psycho-therapy, represents a form of recognition by the other. Market interactions, at least when they takes place on the background of fair institutions, represent voluntary exchanges of valued goods. In order to stay in the market, you must develop the ability to produce something other people can appreciate. A person who deceives herself into thinking that she has great acting skill cannot survive in the market, because nobody would be ready to pay to assist to her poor performances.

For this reason, self-knowledge through the market is connected to a process of recognition which, I believe, has some intrinsic value. This intrinsic value derives from the fact that people recognize your talent when they are ready to pay you to exercize it. This form of self-knowledge seems superior to self-knowledge based upon the idea of cognitive psycho-therapy, because it is less arbitrary and allows an expansion of a person's values.