The impartial observer theorem of social ethics

Economics and Philosophy 17 (2):147-179 (2001)
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 and a step-wise philosophical critique of its premisses. It eventually provides a new formal version of the theorem based on subjective probability.
Keywords Utilitarianism  Impartiality  Sympathy  Harsanyi  Subjective Probability
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