Philosophical Studies

, Volume 176, Issue 12, pp 3199–3210 | Cite as

Measuring the hedonimeter

  • Brian SkyrmsEmail author
  • Louis Narens


We revisit classical Utilitarianism by connecting and generalizing two ideas. The first is that there is a representation theorem possible for hedonic value (pleasure) similar to, but also importantly different from, the one provided by von Neumann and Morgenstern to measure decision utility. The idea is to use objective time, in place of objective chance, to measure hedonic value. This representation for hedonic value delivers a stronger kind of scale than von Neumann–Morgenstern utility, a ratio scale rather than merely an interval scale. The second idea is that measurement on a ratio scale allows the meaningful aggregation of utilities over a group. This is aggregation by product rather than sum. Aggregation by product is known to have interesting Prioritarian consequences. Aggregation becomes complicated when the two approaches are mixed, when hedonic value is mixed with uncertainly. It becomes problematic when pain as well as pleasure is taken into account.


Hedonimeter Measurement Utilitarianism Meaningfulness Prioritarian Pleasure Pain 



Research for this article was supported by Grant SMA-1416907 from National Science Foundation


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Logic and the Philosophy of ScienceUniversity of CaliforniaIrvineUSA
  2. 2.Department of PhilosophyStanford UniversityStanfordUSA
  3. 3.Department of Cognitive SciencesUniversity of CaliforniaIrvineUSA

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