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Measuring the hedonimeter


We revisit classical Utilitarianism by connecting and generalizing two ideas. The first is that there is a representation theorem possible for hedonic value (pleasure) similar to, but also importantly different from, the one provided by von Neumann and Morgenstern to measure decision utility. The idea is to use objective time, in place of objective chance, to measure hedonic value. This representation for hedonic value delivers a stronger kind of scale than von Neumann–Morgenstern utility, a ratio scale rather than merely an interval scale. The second idea is that measurement on a ratio scale allows the meaningful aggregation of utilities over a group. This is aggregation by product rather than sum. Aggregation by product is known to have interesting Prioritarian consequences. Aggregation becomes complicated when the two approaches are mixed, when hedonic value is mixed with uncertainly. It becomes problematic when pain as well as pleasure is taken into account.

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