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Measurement theory and the foundations of utilitarianism

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  • John Weymark

Abstract

This article reconsiders the Harsanyi--Sen debate concerning whether Harsanyi is justified in interpreting his Aggregation and Impartial Observer Theorems as providing axiomatizations of utilitarianism. Sen's criticism and its formalization by Weymark are based on the claim that von Neumann--Morgenstern utility theory is ordinal, whereas Harsanyi's utilitarian conclusions require cardinal utility. Proposals for overcoming Sen's objection that appeal to formal measurement theory are considered. It is argued that one of these proposals due to Broome and Risse rightly points to a feature of expected utility theory that was ignored by Sen and Weymark, but that this proposal does not provide a normatively compelling justification for cardinal utility. The other proposal due to Broome is shown to make use of a strength of preference relation in addition to the axioms of expected utility theory.
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  • John Weymark, 2005. "Measurement theory and the foundations of utilitarianism," Social Choice and Welfare, Springer;The Society for Social Choice and Welfare, vol. 25(2), pages 527-555, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:spr:sochwe:v:25:y:2005:i:2:p:527-555
    DOI: 10.1007/s00355-005-0017-7
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    1. Blackorby, Charles & Donaldson, David & Weymark, John A., 1999. "Harsanyi's social aggregation theorem for state-contingent alternatives1," Journal of Mathematical Economics, Elsevier, vol. 32(3), pages 365-387, November.
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    8. Fishburn, Peter C, 1989. "Retrospective on the Utility Theory of von Neumann and Morgenstern," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 2(2), pages 127-157, June.
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    13. Marc Fleurbaey & Maurice Salles & John A. Weymark, 2008. "Justice, Political Liberalism and Utilitarianism," Post-Print hal-00246415, HAL.
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    Cited by:

    1. Fleurbaey, Marc, 2009. "Two variants of Harsanyi's aggregation theorem," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 105(3), pages 300-302, December.
    2. Gebhard Geiger, 2012. "Multi-attribute non-expected utility," Annals of Operations Research, Springer, vol. 196(1), pages 263-292, July.
    3. ,, 2012. "The ex-ante aggregation of opinions under uncertainty," Theoretical Economics, Econometric Society, vol. 7(3), September.
    4. John A. Weymark, 2011. "On Kolm’s Use of Epistemic Counterfactuals in Social Choice Theory," Studies in Choice and Welfare, in: Marc Fleurbaey & Maurice Salles & John A. Weymark (ed.), Social Ethics and Normative Economics, pages 279-301, Springer.
    5. Gebhard Geiger, 2020. "Conditional non-expected utility preferences induced by mixture of lotteries: a note on the normative invalidity of expected utility theory," Annals of Operations Research, Springer, vol. 289(2), pages 431-448, June.
    6. Thibault Gajdos & Feriel Kandil, 2008. "The ignorant observer," Social Choice and Welfare, Springer;The Society for Social Choice and Welfare, vol. 31(2), pages 193-232, August.
    7. Yaron Azrieli & Semin Kim, 2014. "Pareto Efficiency And Weighted Majority Rules," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 55(4), pages 1067-1088, November.
    8. Lu Li, 2021. "Opening up the black box: Technological transparency and prevention," Journal of Risk & Insurance, The American Risk and Insurance Association, vol. 88(3), pages 665-693, September.
    9. Yaron Azrieli & Semin Kim, 2014. "Pareto Efficiency And Weighted Majority Rules," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 55, pages 1067-1088, November.
    10. Courard-Hauri David & Lauer Stephen A., 2012. "Taking "All Men Are Created Equal" Seriously: Toward a Metric for the Intergroup Comparison of Utility Functions Through Life Values," Journal of Benefit-Cost Analysis, De Gruyter, vol. 3(3), pages 1-30, August.
    11. Aki Lehtinen, 2011. "A welfarist critique of social choice theory," Journal of Theoretical Politics, , vol. 23(3), pages 359-381, July.
    12. John A Weymark, 2012. "Social Welfare Functions," Vanderbilt University Department of Economics Working Papers vuecon-sub-13-00018, Vanderbilt University Department of Economics.

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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D63 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Equity, Justice, Inequality, and Other Normative Criteria and Measurement
    • D71 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Social Choice; Clubs; Committees; Associations
    • D81 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Criteria for Decision-Making under Risk and Uncertainty

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