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Measuring UtilityFrom the Marginal Revolution to Behavioral Economics$
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Ivan Moscati

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780199372768

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: December 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780199372768.001.0001

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Still on the Quest for a Unit

Still on the Quest for a Unit

Utility Measurement in Wieser, Böhm-Bawerk, Edgeworth, Fisher, and Marshall, 1880–1910

Chapter:
(p.49) chapter 3 Still on the Quest for a Unit
Source:
Measuring Utility
Author(s):

Ivan Moscati

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/oso/9780199372768.003.0004

Chapter 3 moves to the second generation of marginalists and examines how Friedrich von Wieser, Eugen von Böhm-Bawerk, Francis Ysidro Edgeworth, Irving Fisher, and Alfred Marshall conceived of measurement and how they addressed the issue of the measurability of utility. Their respective approaches to utility measurement were highly diverse. Wieser summed the utilities of goods as if they were measurable in terms of some unit. Böhm-Bawerk claimed that individuals can assess utility ratios. Edgeworth suggested the just-perceivable increment of pleasure as a unit to measure utility on the basis of introspection. Fisher proposed adopting a utility unit that could be derived from observable relations between commodities. Marshall took willingness to pay as an indirect measure of utility. Despite the diversity of their approaches, all five economists identified measurement with unit-based measurement. Therefore, just like Jevons, Menger, and Walras, they were also not cardinalists in the current sense of the term.

Keywords:   Friedrich von Wieser, Eugen von Böhm-Bawerk, Francis Ysidro Edgeworth, hedonimetry, just-perceivable increment, Irving Fisher, util, Alfred Marshall, willingness to pay, mentalism and instrumentalism

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