Measurement Theory and the Foundations of Utilitarianism
Harsanyi used expected utility theory to provide two axiomatizations of weighted utilitarian rules. Sen (and later, Weymark) has argued that Harsanyi has not, in fact, axiomatized utilitarianism because he has misapplied expected utility theory. Specifically, Sen and Weymark have argued that von Neumann-Morgenstern expected utility theory is an ordinal theory and, therefore, any increasing transform of a von Neumann-Morgenstern utility function is a satisfactory representation of a preference relation over lotteries satisfying the expected utility axioms. However, Harsanyi's version of utilitarianism requires a cardinal theory of utility in which only von Neumann-Morgenstern utility functions are acceptable representations of preferences. Broome has argued that von Neumann-Morgenstern expected utility theory is cardinal in the relevant sense needed to support Harsanyi's utilitarian conclusions. His basic point is that a preference binary relation is not a complete description of preferences in the von Neumann-Morgenstern theory. Rather, the preference relation needs to be supplemented by a binary operation, and it is this operation that makes the theory cardinal. Broome does not provide a formal argument in support of this conclusion. In this article, measurement theory is used to critically evaluate Broome's claims. It is shown that the criticisms of Harsanyi's theory by Sen and Weymark can be extended to the more complete description of expected utility theory that is obtained by using the mixture operators that appear in von Neumann and Morgenstern's original description of expected utility theory in addition to a preference relation
|Date of creation:||11 Aug 2004|
|Contact details of provider:|| Phone: 1 212 998 3820|
Fax: 1 212 995 4487
Web page: http://www.econometricsociety.org/pastmeetings.asp
More information through EDIRC
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:
- 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.
- John C. Harsanyi, 1953. "Cardinal Utility in Welfare Economics and in the Theory of Risk-taking," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 61, pages 434-434.
- MONGIN, Philippe & d'ASPREMONT, Claude, "undated".
"Utility theory and ethics,"
CORE Discussion Papers RP
1423, Université catholique de Louvain, Center for Operations Research and Econometrics (CORE).
- P. Mongin & C. d'Aspremont, 1996. "Utility theory and ethics," THEMA Working Papers 96-32, THEMA (THéorie Economique, Modélisation et Applications), Université de Cergy-Pontoise.
- 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).
- Mongin, P & d'Aspremont, C, 1996. "Utility Theory and Ethics," Papers 9632, Paris X - Nanterre, U.F.R. de Sc. Ec. Gest. Maths Infor..
- 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.
- Milton Friedman & L. J. Savage, 1948. "The Utility Analysis of Choices Involving Risk," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 56, pages 279-279.
- Peter J. Hammond & Claude d'Aspremont, 2001. "An interview with John C. Harsanyi," Social Choice and Welfare, Springer;The Society for Social Choice and Welfare, vol. 18(3), pages 389-401.
- Mandler, Michael, 2001. "Dilemmas in Economic Theory: Persisting Foundational Problems of Microeconomics," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780195145755, April.
- Mandler, Michael, 1999. "Dilemmas in Economic Theory: Persisting Foundational Problems in Microeconomics," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780195100877, April.
- Marcus Fleming, 1952. "A Cardinal Concept of Welfare," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 66(3), pages 366-384.
- Marc Fleurbaey & Maurice Salles & John Weymark, 2008. "Justice, Political Liberalism and Utilitarianism," Post-Print hal-00246415, HAL.
- John C. Harsanyi, 1955. "Cardinal Welfare, Individualistic Ethics, and Interpersonal Comparisons of Utility," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 63, pages 309-309.
- Milton Friedman & L. J. Savage, 1952. "The Expected-Utility Hypothesis and the Measurability of Utility," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 60, pages 463-463. Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)