Can we make interpersonal comparisons of utility?

Or to be more precise: can we measure absolute levels of interpersonal utility or just relative differences of utility between individuals? (More fundamentally, what the heck is “utility”?) Either way, these are fundamental questions in theoretical economics, and they have always puzzled us. Depending on how the ultimate question is framed, some economists say yes; most say no. (If economists are right that the answer is no, it would mean that most, if not all, social science studies relying on surveys and other subjective tests are totally bogus. By the way, it was this post regarding the Implicit Association Test that motivated us to pose this question about interpersonal comparisons.) For your reference, here are some assorted links on this question: Eric Angner; Ken Binmore; Peter Hammond; John Harsanyi; Nicholas Kaldor.

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True or false?

About F. E. Guerra-Pujol

When I’m not blogging, I am a business law professor at the University of Central Florida.
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