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Using vNM expected utility theory to facilitate the decision-making in social ethics

Yanick Farmer

Journal of Risk Research, 2015, vol. 18, issue 10, pages 1307-1319

Abstract: The overall objective of this article is to demonstrate that in social ethics, certain problems related to decision-making are easier to resolve using conceptual tools borrowed from mathematics than using philosophical ethics theories, such as classical utilitarianism. With the help of a case study, the first part of the article will attempt to point out that if an agent bases his reasoning on the verbal and purely qualitative concepts of the classical utilitarian theory, he will find himself confronting 'undecidable' dilemmas, for which making a specific choice becomes almost arbitrary. The second part of the article proposes a more formal quantification of utility and attitude towards risk that can help the agent to overcome the uncertainties emanating from a strictly qualitative perception of the real world's configuration. This method for decision-making is inspired by the works of Howard Raiffa, John von Neumann and Oskar Morgenstern.

Date: 2015
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