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F.Y. Edgeworth’s Mathematical Psychics and his Utilitarianism: The Derivation from the ‘Sidgwick-Barratt Controversy’

Listed author(s):
  • Tomoyuki Uemiya


    (Postgraduate, Kwansei Gakuin University)

The purpose of this article is to demonstrate that Edgeworth’s Mathematical Psychics (1881) has been influenced by various intellectual contemporaries through the ‘Sidgwick-Barratt Controversy’. Under the influence of Barratt, Edgeworth admitted the physical methods of ethics; which is clear from his adoption of the ‘Fechner’s Law’ to measure the quantity of pleasure. Through the analysis of the contract between egoistic agents, Edgeworth also attempted to prove the need of utilitarianism as the solution to Sicgwick’s ‘Dualism of Practical Reasons’. Since Edgeworth asserted that the capacity for pleasure is different among people, criticizing ‘equality’ tacitly implied in utilitarianism, he admitted ‘exact Utilitarianism’ which allowed unequal distribution as the ‘distributive justice’ for the greatest happiness of the society. Thus Edgeworth’s Mathematical Psychics is not only the economic but also ethical work influenced by ‘Sidgwick-Barratt Controversy’.

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Paper provided by School of Economics, Kwansei Gakuin University in its series Discussion Paper Series with number 37.

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Length: 29 pages
Date of creation: Mar 2008
Date of revision: Mar 2008
Handle: RePEc:kgu:wpaper:37
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  1. Alberto Baccini, 2007. "Edgeworth on the foundations of ethics and probability," The European Journal of the History of Economic Thought, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 14(1), pages 79-96.
  2. John Creedy, 1980. "Some Recent Interpretations of Mathematical Psychics," History of Political Economy, Duke University Press, vol. 12(2), pages 267-276, Summer.
  3. Collard, David, 1975. "Edgeworth's Propositions on Altruism," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 85(338), pages 355-360, June.
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