Erkenntnis 58 (2):229 - 260 (2003)

Authors
Christian List
London School of Economics
Abstract
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
Categories (categorize this paper)
Reprint years 2004
DOI 10.1023/A:1022094826922
Options
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

References found in this work BETA

Social Choice and Individual Values.Irving M. Copi - 1952 - Science and Society 16 (2):181-181.
Belief and the Basis of Meaning.Donald Davidson - 1974 - Synthese 27 (July-August):309-323.

View all 18 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Normative Uncertainty Without Theories.Jennifer Rose Carr - 2020 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 98 (4):747-762.
Aggregating Causal Judgments.Richard Bradley, Franz Dietrich & Christian List - 2014 - Philosophy of Science 81 (4):491-515.
Social Choice Theory.Christian List - 2013 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

View all 16 citations / Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Analytics

Added to PP index
2009-01-28

Total views
301 ( #24,899 of 2,349,843 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
67 ( #8,893 of 2,349,843 )

How can I increase my downloads?

Downloads

My notes