Authors
Jake Nebel
University of Southern California
Abstract
This paper is about the role of interpersonal comparisons in Harsanyi's aggregation theorem. Harsanyi interpreted his theorem to show that a broadly utilitarian theory of distribution must be true even if there are no interpersonal comparisons of well-being. How is this possible? The orthodox view is that it is not. Some argue that the interpersonal comparability of well-being is hidden in Harsanyi's premises. Others argue that it is a surprising conclusion of Harsanyi's theorem, which is not presupposed by any one of the premises. I argue instead that Harsanyi was right: his theorem and its weighted-utilitarian conclusion do not require interpersonal comparisons of well-being. The key to making sense of this possibility is to treat Harsanyi's weights as dimensional constants rather than dimensionless numbers.
Keywords Harsanyi's aggregation theorem  interpersonal comparisons of well-being  weighted utilitarianism  social welfare functionals  dimensional constants  dimensioned quantities
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DOI 10.1111/phpr.12783
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References found in this work BETA

Morals by Agreement.David Gauthier - 1986 - Oxford University Press.
Utilitarianism.J. S. Mill - 1861 - Oxford University Press UK.
Weighing Lives.John Broome - 2004 - Oxford University Press.

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