Indifference Curves and the Ordinalist Revolution
The development of ordinalism was fostered by the idea of dispensing with external psychological arguments in utility theory and building the whole theory of the consumer upon indifference curves (and maps). Yet the pioneers of ordinalism, Fisher and Pareto, did not make clear whether indifference curves should be considered as an observational, experimental, or purely theoretical construction (possibly based upon introspection). Indeed, the exact status of indifference curves for the theory of choice was not seriously debated before the 1930s and 1940s, in the United States. An experiment by the psychologist Louis Leon Thurstone was then the starting point for some clarifications about the role of experimental economics for the new theory of the consumer. The aim of this article is to throw light on the ins and outs of this issue of the ordinalist revolution. Thurstone’s experiment was the occasion for a debate on the status of indifference curves and more broadly on the role of experiments within the theory of choice. It would lead economists (such as Georgescu-Roegen, Wallis, Friedman, and Samuelson) to clarify the methodological foundations of the theory of choice and to express strong divergences about the usefulness of the theory.
If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.
As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to look for a different version under "Related research" (further below) or search for a different version of it.
Volume (Year): 44 (2012)
Issue (Month): 1 (Spring)
|Contact details of provider:|| Postal: Duke University Press 905 W. Main Street, Suite 18B Durham, NC 27701|
Phone: (919) 660-1800
Fax: (919) 684-8974
Web page: http://www.dukeupress.edu/Catalog/ViewProduct.php?viewby=journal&productid=45614
When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:hop:hopeec:v:44:y:2012:i:1:p:113-155. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.
For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Center for the History of Political Economy Webmaster)
If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.