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From moral welfarism to technical non-welfarism : A step back to Bentham’s felicific calculus of its members

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  • A. Baujard

    (CREM - CNRS)

Abstract

A focus on the information used in Bentham’s felicific calculus sheds new light on the contemporary debate in normative economics opposing non-welfarism to welfarism. As a utilitarian, Bentham is de facto welfarist on a moral sense. Unexpectedly, this study shows Bentham resorts to non-welfarist information in his calculus. Thus, technical non-welfarism is coherent with moral welfarism, and even, the former proves necessary not to betray utilitarian principles. To sustain this claim, we challenge a view opposing a “cardinal” to an “ordinal” calculus: these two calculi constitute different stages of a unique calculus; because of operational constraints, Bentham is bound to rely on proxies, hence on non-utility information.

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Paper provided by Center for Research in Economics and Management (CREM), University of Rennes 1, University of Caen and CNRS in its series Economics Working Paper Archive (University of Rennes 1 & University of Caen) with number 200606.

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Date of creation: 2006
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Handle: RePEc:tut:cremwp:200606

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Related research

Keywords: Bentham; individual utility; utility calculus; utilitarianism; welfarism; non-welfarism; social welfare; technical welfarism; moral welfarism.;

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  1. MONGIN, Philippe & d ASPREMONT, Claude, 1996. "Utility theory and ethics," CORE Discussion Papers 1996063, Université catholique de Louvain, Center for Operations Research and Econometrics (CORE).
  2. Nathalie Sigot, 1993. ""Be Quiet" mais modérement : le rôle de l'Etat dans la pensée économique de Jeremy Bentham," Post-Print hal-00578352, HAL.
  3. Antoinette Baujard, 2006. "L'estimation des préférences individuelles pour la décision publique. Problèmes, paradoxes, enjeux," Economics Working Paper Archive (University of Rennes 1 & University of Caen) 200608, Center for Research in Economics and Management (CREM), University of Rennes 1, University of Caen and CNRS.
  4. Andr Lapidus & Nathalie Sigot, 2000. "Individual utility in a context of asymmetric sensitivity to pleasure and pain: an interpretation of Bentham's felicific calculus," The European Journal of the History of Economic Thought, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 7(1), pages 45-78.
  5. Kelsey, David, 1987. "The Role of Information in Social Welfare Judgements," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 39(2), pages 301-17, June.
  6. Sigot, Nathalie, 2002. "Jevons's Debt to Bentham: Mathematical Economy, Morals and Psychology," Manchester School, University of Manchester, vol. 70(2), pages 262-78, March.
  7. Sen, Amartya Kumar, 1970. "The Impossibility of a Paretian Liberal," Scholarly Articles 3612779, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  8. Sen, Amartya, 1970. "The Impossibility of a Paretian Liberal," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 78(1), pages 152-57, Jan.-Feb..
  9. Pattanaik, Prasanta K., 1994. "Rights and freedom in welfare economics," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 38(3-4), pages 731-738, April.
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