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Utils and Shmutils

Ethics 131 (3):571-599 (2021)

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  1. Ethics Without Numbers.Jacob M. Nebel - forthcoming - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research.
    This paper develops and explores a new framework for theorizing about the measurement and aggregation of well-being. It is a qualitative variation on the framework of social welfare functionals developed by Amartya Sen. In Sen’s framework, a social or overall betterness ordering is assigned to each profile of real-valued utility functions. In the qualitative framework developed here, numerical utilities are replaced by the properties they are supposed to represent. This makes it possible to characterize the measurability and interpersonal comparability of (...)
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  • Calibration Dilemmas in the Ethics of Distribution.Jacob M. Nebel & H. Orri Stefánsson - forthcoming - Economics and Philosophy:1-32.
    This paper presents a new kind of problem in the ethics of distribution. The problem takes the form of several “calibration dilemmas,” in which intuitively reasonable aversion to small-stakes inequalities requires leading theories of distribution to recommend intuitively unreasonable aversion to large-stakes inequalities. We first lay out a series of such dilemmas for prioritarian theories. We then consider a widely endorsed family of egalitarian views and show that they are subject to even more forceful calibration dilemmas than prioritarian theories. Finally, (...)
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  • Aggregation Without Interpersonal Comparisons of Well‐Being.Jacob M. Nebel - forthcoming - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research.
    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 (...)
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