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The Impartial Observer Theorem of Social Ethics

Author

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  • Philippe Mongin

    (CNRS & Ecole Polytechnique)

Abstract

Following a long-standing philosophical tradition, impartiality is a distinctive and determining feature of moral judgments, especially in matters of distributive justice. This broad ethical tradition was revived in welfare economics by Vickrey, and above all, Harsanyi, under the form of the so-called Impartial Observer Theorem. The paper offers an analytical reconstruction of this argument, using a simple mathematical formalism, as well as a conceptual critique of each its premisses.

Suggested Citation

  • Philippe Mongin, 2005. "The Impartial Observer Theorem of Social Ethics," Public Economics 0510002, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  • Handle: RePEc:wpa:wuwppe:0510002
    Note: Type of Document - pdf; pages: 32. 'The Impartial Observer Theorem of Social Ethics' is one the recent papers which contributed to the revival of the impartiality tradition in the theory of economic justice.
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Mongin, P & d'Aspremont, C, 1996. "Utility Theory and Ethics," Papers 9632, Paris X - Nanterre, U.F.R. de Sc. Ec. Gest. Maths Infor..
    2. Harsanyi, John C, 1995. "Games with Incomplete Information," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 85(3), pages 291-303, June.
    3. 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.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Thibault Gajdos & Feriel Kandil, 2008. "The ignorant observer," Social Choice and Welfare, Springer;The Society for Social Choice and Welfare, vol. 31(2), pages 193-232, August.
    2. Yoram Amiel & Frank Cowell & Wulf Gaertner, 2009. "To be or not to be involved: a questionnaire-experimental view on Harsanyi’s utilitarian ethics," Social Choice and Welfare, Springer;The Society for Social Choice and Welfare, vol. 32(2), pages 299-316, February.
    3. repec:hal:journl:halshs-00115722 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Hammond, Peter J, 2013. "Extending the Original Position : Revisiting the Pattanaik Critique of Vickrey/Harsanyi Utilitarianism," The Warwick Economics Research Paper Series (TWERPS) 1008, University of Warwick, Department of Economics.
    5. Stefan Traub & Tim Krieger, 2008. "Back to Bismarck? Shifting Preferences for Intragenerational Redistribution in OECD Pension Systems," LIS Working papers 485, LIS Cross-National Data Center in Luxembourg.
    6. Tim Krieger & Stefan Traub, 2008. "Back to Bismarck? Shifting Preferences for Intragenerational Redistribution in OECD Pension Systems," Working Papers CIE 13, Paderborn University, CIE Center for International Economics.
    7. Abatemarco, Antonio & Stroffolini, Francesca, 2017. "The Economics of Justice as Fairness," EconStor Preprints 176843, ZBW - German National Library of Economics.
    8. repec:kap:theord:v:83:y:2017:i:3:d:10.1007_s11238-017-9599-7 is not listed on IDEAS
    9. Simon Grant & Atsushi Kajii & Ben Polak & Zvi Safra, 2010. "Generalized Utilitarianism and Harsanyi's Impartial Observer Theorem," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 78(6), pages 1939-1971, November.
    10. Valérie Clément & Alain Marciano, 2011. "Welfarism, Libertarian Paternalism and Political Economy: Three Perspectives on Economic Expertise," Working Papers 11-23, LAMETA, Universitiy of Montpellier, revised Nov 2011.
    11. Simon Grant & Atsushi Kajii & Ben Polak & Zvi Safra, 2012. "A generalized representation theorem for Harsanyi’s (‘impartial’) observer," Social Choice and Welfare, Springer;The Society for Social Choice and Welfare, vol. 39(4), pages 833-846, October.
    12. Berens, Stefan & Chochua, Lasha, 2017. "The impartial observer under uncertainty," Center for Mathematical Economics Working Papers 576, Center for Mathematical Economics, Bielefeld University.
    13. Marc Fleurbaey & Philippe Mongin, 2016. "The Utilitarian Relevance of the Aggregation Theorem," American Economic Journal: Microeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 8(3), pages 289-306, August.
    14. Juan Moreno-Ternero & John E. Roemer, 2004. "Impartiality and Priority. Part 1: The Veil of Ignorance," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 1477A, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University, revised May 2005.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Utilitarianism; Impartiality; Sympathy; Von Neumann- Morgenstern Utility Theory; Subjective Probability.;

    JEL classification:

    • D63 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Equity, Justice, Inequality, and Other Normative Criteria and Measurement
    • B21 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - History of Economic Thought since 1925 - - - Microeconomics
    • D81 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Criteria for Decision-Making under Risk and Uncertainty

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