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Individual Utility in a Context of Asymetric Sensitivity to Pleasure and Pain: An Interpretation of Bentham's Felicific Calculus

  • André Lapidus


    (PHARE - Pôle d'Histoire de l'Analyse et des Représentations Economiques - CNRS - UP10 - Université Paris 10, Paris Ouest Nanterre La Défense - UP1 - Université Panthéon-Sorbonne)

  • Nathalie Sigot


    (PHARE - Pôle d'Histoire de l'Analyse et des Représentations Economiques - CNRS - UP10 - Université Paris 10, Paris Ouest Nanterre La Défense - UP1 - Université Panthéon-Sorbonne)

This paper aims at exploring, in a formal way, Bentham's statement that “the pleasure of gaining is not equal to the evil of losing”, which belongs to those aspects of the principle of utility left aside by Jevon's reconstruction. Consequently, the agent's preference order will be viewed as depending on his initial situation, and on asymmetric sensitivity to gains and losses, relative to this situation. This leads i) to discuss the coexistence of multiple preference orders, illustrated by Bentham's analysis of the optimal labour contract, and ii) to introduce true deliberation as a consequence of the gap between positive choice and rival assessments of utility.

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Paper provided by HAL in its series Post-Print with number hal-00344899.

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Date of creation: 2000
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Publication status: Published in European Journal of the History of Economic Thought, Taylor & Francis (Routledge), 2000, 7 (1), pp.45-78
Handle: RePEc:hal:journl:hal-00344899
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  1. Loomes, Graham & Sugden, Robert, 1982. "Regret Theory: An Alternative Theory of Rational Choice under Uncertainty," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 92(368), pages 805-24, December.
  2. 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.
  3. Grether, David M. & Plott, Charles R., . "Economic Theory of Choice and the Preference Reversal Phenomenon," Working Papers 152, California Institute of Technology, Division of the Humanities and Social Sciences.
  4. Tversky, Amos & Thaler, Richard H, 1990. "Anomalies: Preference Reversals," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 4(2), pages 201-11, Spring.
  5. Nathalie Sigot, 1993. ""Be Quiet" mais modérement : le rôle de l'Etat dans la pensée économique de Jeremy Bentham," Post-Print hal-00578352, HAL.
  6. Stigler, George J & Becker, Gary S, 1977. "De Gustibus Non Est Disputandum," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 67(2), pages 76-90, March.
  7. Quiggin, John, 1982. "A theory of anticipated utility," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 3(4), pages 323-343, December.
  8. Holt, Charles A, 1986. "Preference Reversals and the Independence Axiom," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 76(3), pages 508-15, June.
  9. Machina, Mark J, 1987. "Choice under Uncertainty: Problems Solved and Unsolved," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 1(1), pages 121-54, Summer.
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