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Collective interest versus individual interest in Bentham's felicific calculus. Questioning welfarism and fairness

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  • Antoinette Baujard

Abstract

The core idea of utilitarianism for Bentham is to establish that only individual utilities count in social welfare. There can be two distinct interpretations of this apparently simple principle. According to one view, individual utilities represent the basic information for the calculation of social welfare: this is how utilitarianism works. According to a second view, social welfare is maximized if and only if individual utilities are maximized: this is what justifies utilitarianism. This aim of this paper is to show: that these two interpretations should not be confused; that they correspond to distinct definitions of welfarism; that they are likely to conflict; and that as a consequence we can draw important and surprising conclusions for political philosophy and economic science. One such conclusion is that fairness should be prior to goodness in a consistent Benthamian doctrine.

Suggested Citation

  • Antoinette Baujard, 2010. "Collective interest versus individual interest in Bentham's felicific calculus. Questioning welfarism and fairness," The European Journal of the History of Economic Thought, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 17(4), pages 607-634.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:eujhet:v:17:y:2010:i:4:p:607-634
    DOI: 10.1080/09672567.2010.483067
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Antoinette Baujard, 2013. "Value judgments and economics expertise," Working Papers 1314, Groupe d'Analyse et de Théorie Economique Lyon St-Étienne (GATE Lyon St-Étienne), Université de Lyon.
    2. Antoinette Baujard & Muriel Gilardone, 2013. "Individual judgments and social choice in Sen's idea of justice and democracy," Post-Print halshs-00950320, HAL.
    3. Michel Bellet, 2011. "Saint-Simonism and Utilitarianism : the history of a paradox. Bentham’s Defence of Usury under Saint-Amand Bazard’s Interpretation," Working Papers 1135, Groupe d'Analyse et de Théorie Economique Lyon St-Étienne (GATE Lyon St-Étienne), Université de Lyon.
    4. Michel Bellet, 2011. "Saint-Simonism and Utilitarianism: the history of a paradox. Bentham's Defence of Usury under Saint-Amand Bazard's Interpretation," Working Papers halshs-00654847, HAL.

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