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The concept of nudge and its moral significance: a reply to Ashcroft, Bovens, Dworkin, Welch and Wertheimer
  1. Yashar Saghai
  1. Correspondence to Yashar Saghai, MA, PhD, Berman Institute of Bioethics, Johns Hopkins University, 1809 Ashland Avenue, Baltimore, MD 21205, USA; ysaghai{at}

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I warmly thank Richard Ashcroft, Luc Bovens, Gerald Dworkin, Brynn Welch, and Alan Wertheimer for their insightful comments on my article.1 As I do not have the space to discuss all the questions they raise, I will focus on four concerns that run through my commentators’ responses.

Cluttering our minds with trivialities

Wertheimer argues that my Choice-Set Preservation Condition is objectionable because it wrongly implies that any reduction of the choice-set is incompatible with the preservation of freedom of choice.2 He notes that removing unimportant options may enhance the influencee's ‘deliberative capacities and, perhaps, her freedom’.

I agree with Wertheimer's substantive claim, although I do not think it is incompatible with my view. As Joel Feinberg argued, freedom of choice is undermined when fecund options are eliminated.3 Fecund options are options that lead to another array of options. For instance, the choice between several universities opens up different career prospects. Restricting those upstream choices has consequences on an unspecifiable number of branching downstream choices. However, restricting ‘limited’ options (eg, multiple toothpaste brands) that are not gateways to other options may actually facilitate decision-making and ultimately increase freedom. Cluttering our minds with trivialities would undermine the exercise of practical reason.

Substantial noncontrol and easy resistibility

Welch's objections focus on my definition of easy resistibility.4 He claims that my definitions of easy resistibility and of the ability to resist an influence easily are inconsistent. Dworkin argues that the language of the ‘ability to easily resist’ overlooks the critical distinction between having a capacity and exercising it.5 While I stand by my understanding of nudges, I would like to rephrase my view in order to consolidate some of the definitions I offer, taking into account the comments of Dworkin and Welch.

I defend the thesis that an influence preserves freedom of choice if and only if it is …

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  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; internally peer reviewed.

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