David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Ezio Di Nucci
Jonathan Jenkins Ichikawa
Jack Alan Reynolds
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Erkenntnis 58 (2):229 - 260 (2003)
On the orthodox view in economics, interpersonal comparisons of utility are not empirically meaningful, and "hence" impossible. To reassess this view, this paper draws on the parallels between the problem of interpersonal comparisons of utility and the problem of translation of linguistic meaning, as explored by Quine. I discuss several cases of what the empirical evidence for interpersonal comparisonsof utility might be and show that, even on the strongest of these, interpersonal comparisons are empirically underdetermined and, if we also deny any appropriate truth of the matter, indeterminate. However, the underdetermination can be broken non-arbitrarily (though not purely empirically) if (i) we assign normative significance to certain states of affairs or (ii) we posit a fixed connection between certain empirically observable proxies and utility. I conclude that, even if interpersonal comparisons are not empirically meaningful, they are not in principle impossible.
|Keywords||Utility Welfare Interpersonal comparisons Empirical underdetermination Indeterminacy Quine|
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Citations of this work BETA
Rachael Briggs (2015). Transformative Experience and Interpersonal Utility Comparisons. Res Philosophica 92 (2):189-216.
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Krister Bykvist (2010). Can Unstable Preferences Provide a Stable Standard of Well-Being? Economics and Philosophy 26 (1):1-26.
Mauro Rossi (2014). Simulation Theory and Interpersonal Utility Comparisons Reconsidered. Synthese 191 (6):1185-1210.
Richard Bradley (2008). Comparing Evaluations. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 108 (1part1):85-100.
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