Simulation theory and interpersonal utility comparisons reconsidered

Synthese 191 (6):1185-1210 (2014)
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Abstract

According to a popular strategy amongst economists and philosophers, in order to solve the problem of interpersonal utility comparisons, we have to look at how ordinary people make such comparisons in everyday life. The most recent attempt to develop this strategy has been put forward by Goldman in his “Simulation and Interpersonal Utility” (Ethics 4:709–726, 1995). Goldman claims, first, that ordinary people make interpersonal comparisons by simulation and, second, that simulation is reliable for making interpersonal comparisons. In this paper, I focus on Goldman’s latter claim. After updating Goldman’s account of how ordinary people make interpersonal comparisons in the light of Goldman’s newest formulation of his simulation theory of mental ascription (Goldman, Simulating Minds. Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2006), I develop and assess Goldman’s arguments in favour of the reliability of simulation for interpersonal comparisons. I argue that, under certain conditions, there may be room for a scientifically acceptable solution to the problem of interpersonal utility comparisons.

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Mauro Rossi
Université du Québec à Montréal

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