From Sensory to Positivist Utilitarianism and Back -- The Rehabilitation of Naturalistic Conjectures in the Theory of Demand
Demand theory grew out of the revision of utilitarianism. The original, Benthamite program – based on a naturalistic, hedonic interpretation of behavior – was replaced by an abstract, subjectivist approach, a motivational mechanics. The implications – expressed exclusively in observable quantities, prices, and incomes – were developed in demand theory. The paper discusses major steps and consequences of the revision together with more recent partial revocations and attempts at reintroducing a naturalistic interpretation. The latter can be enhanced, it is argued, by integrating the (non-utilitarian) theory of wants, a long-standing, but currently much neglected, source of empirical reflections on the motivations of economic behavior.
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