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Pleasure and belief in Hume's decision process

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  • Marc-Arthur Diaye

    ()
    (Centre d'Etude de l'Emploi - Université d'Evry-Val d'Essonne)

  • André Lapidus

    ()
    (PHARE - Pôle d'Histoire de l'Analyse et des Représentations Economiques - CNRS : FRE2541 - Université Panthéon-Sorbonne - Paris I - Université de Paris X - Nanterre)

Abstract

The purpose of this paper is to introduce explicitly pleasure and belief in what aims at being a Humean theory of decision, like the one developed in Diaye and Lapidus (2005a). Although we support the idea that Hume was in some way – evidently different from Bentham's or Jevons' way – a hedonist, we lay emphasis less on continuity than on the specific kind of hedonism encountered in Hume's writings (chiefly the Treatise, the second Enquiry, the Dissertation, or some of his Essays). Such hedonism clearly contrasts to its standard modern inheritance, expressed by the relation between preferences and utility. The reason for such a difference with the usual approach lies in the mental process that Hume puts to the fore in order to explain the way pleasure determines desires and volition. Whereas pleasure is primarily, in Hume's words, an impression of sensation, it takes place in the birth of passions as reflecting an idea of pleasure, whose “force and vivacity” is precisely a “belief”, transferred to the direct passions of desire or volition which come immediately before action. As a result, from a Humean point of view, “belief” deals as well with decision under risk or uncertainty, as with intertemporal decision and indiscrimination problems. The latter are explored within a formal framework, and it is shown that the relation of pleasure is transformed by belief into a relation of desire, which belongs to a non-empty class of relations, among which at least one is a preorder.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by HAL in its series Post-Print with number hal-00428918.

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Date of creation: Jun 2009
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Publication status: Published - Presented, History of Economics Society Conference, 2009, Denver, United States
Handle: RePEc:hal:journl:hal-00428918

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Keywords: Hume; decision; pleasure; belief; passion; desire; preference; rationality; discrimination; will; choice;

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  1. Gordon F. Davis, 2003. "Philosophical Psychology and Economic Psychology in David Hume and Adam Smith," History of Political Economy, Duke University Press, vol. 35(2), pages 269-304, Summer.
  2. André Lapidus, 2010. "The Valuation of Decision and Individual Welfare: A Humean Approach," Post-Print hal-00344868, HAL.
  3. Ignacio Palacios-Huerta, 2001. "Time Inconsistent Preferences in Adam Smith and David Hume," Working Papers 2001-19, Brown University, Department of Economics.
  4. Marc-Arthur Diaye & André Lapidus, 2005. "A Humean Theory of Choice of which Rationality May Be One Consequence," Post-Print hal-00343841, HAL.
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Cited by:
  1. Laurie Bréban & André Lapidus, 2013. "Adam Smith on lotteries: an interpretation and formal restatement," Working Papers hal-00914222, HAL.

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