Erik Angner, PhD

Associate Professor of Philosophy, Economics, and Public Policy
Director, Philosophy, Politics, and Economics (PPE) Program
George Mason University



"60 seconds" interview

On Huffington Post

On Reason TV

Op-Ed: Health-care policy for libertarians

New book: A Course in Behavioral Economics

Most underrated philosopher of the week

Adam Smith
Quick links: Introduction | Publications | Working Papers | Links | Contact | CV

The very masterpiece of philosophy would be to develop the means Providence employs to arrive at the ends she designs for man, and from this construction to deduce some rules of conduct acquainting this wretched two-footed individual with the manner wherein he must proceed along life's thorny way, forewarned of the strange caprices of that fatality they denominate by twenty different titles, and all unavailingly, for it has not yet been scanned nor defined.

– Marquis de Sade, Justine

An Associate Professor of Philosophy, Economics, and Public Policy, I think of myself as a moral philosopher in the old-fashioned sense of the word. Trained first in the philosophy of science, I have a special interest in economic sciences and their relationship to ethics and social and political philosophy. I came to George Mason University via the University of Alabama at Birmingham from the University of Pittsburgh, where as a result of mission creep I received two PhDs: one in History and Philosophy of Science and one in Economics.

At George Mason University [GMU], I teach in the Department of Philosophy [Philosophy], where I am affiliated with the Institute for Philosophy and Public Policy [IPPP] and direct the new undergraduate Philosophy, Politics, and Economics Program [PPE]. In addition, I have secondary appointments in the Department of Economics [Economics] and in the School of Policy, Government, and International Affairs [SPGIA].
In my philosophical work, I study notions of rationality and well-being, and how they can be illuminated by recent advances in decision theory and behavioral decision research. Much of my research involves exploring the philosophical assumptions implicit in contemporary social and behavioral science, and what reflection on these assumptions can tell us both about the assumptions themselves and the nature of the scientific enterprises of which they are part. I am especially interested in what the recent enthusiasm for so-called subjective measures of well-being – that is, measures designed to represent individuals' happiness, satisfaction, and so on – and the "science of happiness" – the body of work inspired by these measures – might entail for the way in which we conceptualize, value, measure, and pursue well-being.

In more historical moments I like to explore issues related to the origins of modern social, political and economic thought. In particular, I have spent a great deal of time exploring the political philosophy of Friedrich A. Hayek (1899-1992). I have published several papers on the nature, origin and implications of his theory of cultural evolution, which on all accounts is central to his project. In 2007, I published a book – titled Hayek and Natural Law (Routledge) – which argues that Hayek's work should be seen as continuous with the Natural Law tradition.

There are sociological moments too, in which I am primarily interested in the role played by economists and other social scientists in the articulation, implementation and evaluation of public policy. Thus, in a recent paper I study the role of some Western economists in the Russian post-Soviet reforms of the early 1990's. Drawing on psychological research on cognitive biases, I argue that economists acting as experts in matters of public policy are likely to suffer from significant overconfidence, and that the consequences can be dramatic.

In my empirical work I study the causes and correlates of happiness. I am particularly interested in the relationship between happiness and health, on the one hand, and poverty, on the other. There are, of course, many ways to measure both health and poverty; as a result, much of my work involves exploring how different measures of health and poverty relate to one another and to happiness. The empirical work informs my philosophical, historical and sociological studies of subjective measures of well-being and the science of happiness / positive psychology, in that it has given me a far deeper understanding of the origins and nature of these measures, as well as their strengths and limitations.
My teaching ranges over a variety of fields. Courses that I have taught (or am teaching) include Introduction to Philosophy; Philosophy of Science; Logic and Critical Thinking; Biomedical Ethics; Social Philosophy; Philosophy, Politics and Economics; Science of Happiness; Behavioral Economics; Experimental Economics; Law and Economics; and Microeconomics. I have had the pleasure to teach in departments of Philosophy, Economics, and History and Philosophy of Science.
Service I am Associate Editor of The International Review of Economics [IREC] and serve on editorial boards of Applied Research in Quality of Life [ARQOL], The Journal of Economic Methodology [JEM], and The International Journal of Wellbeing [IJW]. I serve as Treasurer of the International Network for Economic Method [INEM].
More info For more information, please see my CV [CV] or send me an email [mail].
Angner, Erik (2005) Subjective Measures of Well-Being: A philosophical examination (Dept. of History and Philosophy of Science, University of Pittsburgh). [Fulltext]

Angner, Erik (2004) An Attempt to Understand the Nature and Origin of Hayek's Transformation (Dept. of Economics, University of Pittsburgh). [Fulltext]
Books Angner, Erik (2012) A Course In Behavioral Economics (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan). [Palgrave] [Macmillan] [Amazon] [Facebook]

Angner, Erik (2007) Hayek and Natural Law (London: Routledge). [Routledge] [Amazon] [Google books] [Facebook]
Angner, Erik (online first) "'To Navigate Safely in the Vast Sea of Empirical Facts': Ontology and Methodology in Behavioral Economics," Synthese [Fulltext (subscription required)] [Penultimate draft]

Angner, Erik (2013) "Is Empirical Research Relevant to Philosophical Questions?," Res Philosophica 90(3): 343–363 [Fulltext (subscription required)]

Angner, Erik (2013) "Is it Possible to Measure Happiness? The argument from measurability," European Journal for Philosophy of Science 3(2): 221–240 [Fulltext (subscription required)]

Angner, Erik, Jennifer Ghandhi, et al. (2013) "Daily Functioning, Health Status, And Happiness In Older Adults," Journal of Happiness Studies 14(5): 1563–1574. [Fulltext (subscription required)]

Cuffee, Yendelela L., Erik Angner, et al. (2012) "Does Happiness Predict Medication Adherence among African Americans with Hypertension?," Applied Research in Quality of Life 7(4): 403–412. [Fulltext (subscription required)]

Angner, Erik (2011) “Are Subjective Measures of Well-Being ‘Direct’?,” Australasian Journal of Philosophy 89(1): 115-130. [Fulltext (subscription required)] [Penultimate draft]

Angner, Erik, Sandral Hullett, and Jeroan J. Allison (2011) “‘I’ll Die with the Hammer in my Hand’: John Henryism as a predictor of happiness,” Journal of Economic Psychology 32(3): 357-366. [Fulltext (subscription required)]

Angner, Erik (2011) "The Evolution of Eupathics: The historical roots of subjective measures of wellbeing," International Journal of Wellbeing 1(1): 4-41. [Fulltext]

Angner, Erik (2010) "Subjective Well-Being," Journal of Socio-Economics 39(3): 361-368. [Fulltext (subscription required)] [Penultimate draft]

Angner, Erik, Michael J. Miller, Midge N. Ray, Kenneth G. Saag, and Jeroan J. Allison (2010) “Health Literacy and Happiness: A community-based study,” Social Indicators Research 95(2): 325-338. [Fulltext (subscription required)]

Angner, Erik, Midge N. Ray, Kenneth G. Saag, and Jeroan J. Allison (2009) “Health and Happiness Among Older Adults: A community-based study,” Journal of Health Psychology 14(4): 503-512. [Fulltext (subscription required)]

Cobaugh, Daniel, Erik Angner, et al. (2008) "Effects of Racial Differences on Ability to Afford Prescription Medications," American Journal of Health-System Pharmacy 65(22): 2137-2143. [Fulltext (subscription required)]

Angner, Erik (2006) "Economists as Experts: Overconfidence in theory and practice," Journal of Economic Methodology 13(1): 1-24. [Fulltext (subscription required)] [Penultimate draft]

Angner, Erik (2004) "Revisiting Rawls: A Theory of Justice in the light of Levi’s theory of decision," Theoria 70(1): 3-21. [Fulltext (subscription required)] [Penultimate draft]

Angner, Erik (2004) "Did Hayek Commit the Naturalistic Fallacy?," Journal of the History of Economic Thought 26(3): 349-361. [Fulltext (subscription required)] [Penultimate draft]

Angner, Erik (2002) "Levi’s Account of Preference Reversals," Economics and Philosophy 18(2): 289-304. [Fulltext (subscription required)] [Penultimate draft]

Angner, Erik (2002) "The History of Hayek’s Theory of Cultural Evolution," Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 33(4): 695-718. [Fulltext (subscription required)] [Penultimate draft]

Lindahl, Gabriel, Erik Angner, Urban Rosenqvist, and Ragnar Westerling (2002) "Viktigt med bra kunskapsunderlag för besparingsförslag i vården," Läkartidningen 99(13): 1482-1484. [PubMed] [Fulltext (in Swedish)]
(Book Chapters)
Angner, Erik (2012) "Current Trends in Welfare Measurement," in John B. Davis and D. Wade Hands (Eds.) The Elgar Companion to Recent Economic Methodology (Northampton: Edward Elgar), pp. 121-154. [Penultimate draft] [Google books]

Angner, Erik and George Loewenstein (2012) "Behavioral Economics," in Uskali Mäki (Ed.) Handbook of the Philosophy of Science: Philosophy of Economics (Amsterdam: Elsevier), pp. 641-690. [Penultimate draft] [Google books]

Angner, Erik (2009) "The Politics of Happiness: Subjective vs. economic measures as measures of social well-being," in Lisa Bortolotti (Ed.) Philosophy and Happiness (New York: Palgrave), pp. 149-166. [Penultimate draft] [Publisher's website]

Angner, Erik (2009) "Subjective Measures of Well-Being: Philosophical perspectives," in Harold Kincaid and Don Ross (Eds.) The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Economics (Oxford: Oxford University Press), pp. 560-579. [Google books]

Angner, Erik (2008) "The Philosophical Foundations of Subjective Measures of Well-Being," in Luigino Bruni, Flavio Comim, and Maurizio Pugno (Eds.) Capabilities and Happiness (Oxford: Oxford University Press), pp. 286-298. [Google books]

Loewenstein, George and Erik Angner (2003) "Predicting and Indulging Changing Preferences," in George Loewenstein, Daniel Read, and Roy Baumeister (Eds.) Time and Decision: Economic and psychological perspectives on intertemporal choice (New York: Russell Sage Foundation), pp. 351-391. [Google books]
Publications (Book Reviews)
Angner, Erik (in press) "The world in the model: How economists work and think, by Mary S. Morgan, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2012," Journal of Economic Methodology

Angner, Erik (in press) "Floris Heukelom, Behavioral Economics: A History (New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 2014), pp. xii, 223. ISBN 9781107039346," Journal of the History of Economic Thought [Penultimate draft]

Angner, Erik (2012) "Fred Feldman, What is This Thing Called Happiness? (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010), pp. xv + 286," Utilitas. [Fulltext (subscription required)] [Erratum]

Angner, Erik (2002) "Friedrich Hayek: A biography, Alan Ebenstein. Palgrave, 2001, xiii + 403," Economics and Philosophy 18(2): 381-385. [Fulltext (subscription required)]
Angner, Erik (2012) "Health Care Policy Libertarians Go For," Politico, 26 June, p. 23 [Politico]

Angner, Erik (2010) "Commentary: Valerie Tiberius on Well-Being for Philosophers," Wellbeing: A Cure-All for the Social Sciences?, Blackwell-Wiley Online Conference. [Fulltext]

Tubaro, Paola and Erik Angner (2008) "The Future of History of Economics: Young scholars’ perspective," Journal of the History of Economic Thought 30(1): 81-84. [Fulltext (subscription required)]

Angner, Erik (2006) "Response to Caldwell and Reiss's 'Hayek, Logic, and the Naturalistic Fallacy,'" Journal of the History of Economic Thought 28(3): 371-373. [Fulltext (subscription required)]

Angner, Erik (2002) "Oärlig kritik," Dagens Nyheter, 24 October, p. B2
In Progress Angner, Erik (in progress) "Subjective Well-Being: When, and why, it matters" [SSRN]

Helms, Sara, Erik Angner, Brian Scott, and Sarah Culver (in progress) "Mandated Volunteering: An Experimental Approach."
Blog: "John Henry, he could hammer, but was it worth a broken heart?" [UAB News]

Blog: "Most underrated philosopher of the week" [New AAPS]

Story: "Who is Hayek?" in UAB Magazine [UAB]

Story: "When Construction Costs Runneth Over" in The Wall Street Journal [WSJ]

Story: "The Thought That Counts: A new philosophy for economics" in UAB Magazine [UAB]

Press Release: ISI Announces Prestigious 2010 Templeton Enterprise Award Winners [ISI] [UAB]

Press Release: UAB Undergraduates invited to present to international Research Conference in Italy [UAB]

Press Release: UAB Study Suggests Link Between Health Literacy, Happiness [UAB]

Story: "Mind over Matters" in UAB Magazine [UAB] [web extra 1] [web extra 2]
Erik Angner
Department of Philosophy
George Mason University
4400 University Drive, 3F1
Fairfax, VA 22030, USA
Erik Angner
Department of Philosophy
Robinson Hall B 439A [campus map]