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Frege’s puzzle and the ex ante Pareto principle

Mahtani, Anna (2020) Frege’s puzzle and the ex ante Pareto principle. Philosophical Studies. ISSN 0031-8116

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Identification Number: 10.1007/s11098-020-01524-w

Abstract

The ex ante Pareto principle has an intuitive pull, and it has been a principle of central importance since Harsanyi’s defence of utilitarianism (to be found in e.g. Harsanyi, Rational behaviour and bargaining equilibrium in games and social situations. CUP, Cambridge, 1977). The principle has been used to criticize and refine a range of positions in welfare economics, including egalitarianism and prioritarianism. But this principle faces a serious problem. I have argued elsewhere (Mahtani, J Philos 114(6):303-323 2017) that the concept of ex ante Pareto superiority is not well defined, because its application in a choice situation concerning a fixed population can depend on how the members of that population are designated. I show in this paper that in almost all cases of policy choice, there will be numerous sets of rival designators for the same fixed population. I explore two ways that we might complete the definition of ex ante Pareto superiority. I call these the ‘supervaluationist’ reading and the ‘subvaluationist’ reading. I reject the subvaluationist reading as uncharitable, and argue that the supervaluationist reading is the most promising interpretation of the ex ante Pareto principle. I end by exploring some of the implications of this principle for prioritarianism and egalitarianism.

Item Type: Article
Official URL: https://www.springer.com/journal/11098
Additional Information: © 2020 The Author
Divisions: Philosophy, Logic and Scientific Method
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > B Philosophy (General)
Date Deposited: 24 Aug 2020 08:39
Last Modified: 20 Oct 2020 06:07
URI: http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/id/eprint/106214

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