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Objective Functions and the Goals of Human Action

Andrew M. Yuengert

Chapter Chapter 4 in Approximating Prudence, 2012, pp 47-68 from Palgrave Macmillan

Abstract: Abstract Both the Aristotelian and economic traditions assume that human beings act for reasons, but there are important differences in the descriptions of those reasons. Economists, desiring a parsimonious and mathematically tractable description of human motivation, assume the existence of a single-valued utility function: u(X). Aristotelians describe a manifold set of goods that are ordered hierarchically, difficult to measure, and perhaps incomparable, that as a result confront agents with a much more complex problem even before any constraint is specified. Of course, economists are not necessarily interested in capturing the full richness of the Aristotelian account in their models. They are content to assume that a single-valued utility function connecting choices to utility exists, in the pursuit of parsimonious explanations of behavior. This chapter will explore the consequences of the collapse of human goals into something describable by a utility function.

Keywords: Utility Function; Practical Wisdom; Weak Order; Human Good; Instrumental Good (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2012
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DOI: 10.1057/9781137063175_4

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