Notes

This page contains posts related to my research interests. Some of them will be about my own work. But mainly, they will discuss ideas and results from disciplines like economics and computer science that are important for philosophers, but not always accessible.

Utilitarianism, Welfare, and Information

Utilitarianism is often criticized for making assumptions about welfare comparisons that are too strong to be plausible. Roughly speaking, it assumes that all goods can be precisely measured and compared. This criticism applies both to classical utilitarianism, and to Harsanyi’s more sophisticated version.

However, joint work with Kalle Mikkola and Teru Thomas provides a response. Our version of utilitarianism, a generalization of Harsanyi’s, has almost unlimited flexibility when it comes to welfare comparisons. It allows for all kinds of incomparabilities. The post connects this flexibility with uncertainty.

Continuity and Completeness

Expected utility theory has three main axioms: completeness, continuity, and independence. Completeness is dubious in many normative settings, so what happens when completeness is dropped? This post, based on joint work with Kalle Mikkola, explains that there is a surprising difficulty.

Moral philosophers often reject completeness because they think that some goods are not fully comparable. But they still carry on making continuity arguments. They should be cautious about this.