The Ignorant Observer
Thibault Gajdos () and
Feriel Kandil ()
Université Paris1 Panthéon-Sorbonne (Post-Print and Working Papers) from HAL
Most prominent models of economic justice (and especially those proposed by Harsanyi and Rawls) are based on the assumption that impartiality is required for making moral decisions. However, although Harsanyi and Rawls agree on that, and furthermore agree on the fact that impartiality can be obtained under appropriate conditions of ignorance, they strongly disagree on the consequences of these assumptions. According to Harsanyi, they provide a justification for the utilitarian doctrine, whereas Rawls considers that they imply egalitarianism. We propose here an extension of Harsanyi's Impartial Observer Theorem, that is based on the representation of ignorance as the set of all possible probability distributions. We obtain a characterization of the observer's preferences that, under our most restrictive conditions, is a linear combination of Harsanyi's and Rawls' criteria. Furthermore, this representation is ethically meaningful, in the sense that individuals' utilities are cardinally measurable and unit comparable. This allows us to conclude that the impartiality requirement cannot be used to decide between Rawls' and Harsanyi's positions. Finally, we defend the view that a (strict) combination of Harsanyi's and Rawls' criteria provides a reasonable rule for social decisions.
Keywords: Decision under ignorance; Justice; Impartiality; décision dans l'ignorance; justice; impartialité (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Note: View the original document on HAL open archive server: https://shs.hal.science/halshs-00115722
References: View references in EconPapers View complete reference list from CitEc
Citations: Track citations by RSS feed
Published in 2006
Downloads: (external link)
Journal Article: The ignorant observer (2008)
Working Paper: The ignorant observer (2008)
Working Paper: The ignorant observer (2006)
This item may be available elsewhere in EconPapers: Search for items with the same title.
Export reference: BibTeX
RIS (EndNote, ProCite, RefMan)
Persistent link: https://EconPapers.repec.org/RePEc:hal:cesptp:halshs-00115722
Access Statistics for this paper
More papers in Université Paris1 Panthéon-Sorbonne (Post-Print and Working Papers) from HAL
Bibliographic data for series maintained by CCSD ().