Agreed, and as a further illustration:

For economists, it is common to use a monotone transformation of a utility function in order to make it more tractable in a particular case. Such a transformation preserves the ordering of choices, though not the absolute relationships between them, so if an outcome were preferred in the transformed case it would also be preferred in the original case, and consumption decisions are retained.

This would be a problem for ethicists, because there is a serious difference between, say, U(x,y) = e^x * y and U(x,y) = x + log y, when deciding the outcome of an action. Economists would note that consumption behavior was essentially fixed if given prices, and be unsurprised. Ethicists would have to see the e^x and conclude that humanity should essentially spend the rest of its waking days creating xs; not so in the second function. Of course, the latter function is merely the log-transformation of the former.

ETA: Well, the economist would be a little surprised at the first utility function, because they don't tend to see or postulate things quite that extreme. But it wouldn't be problematic.

Ethicists would have to see the e^x and conclude that humanity should essentially spend the rest of its waking days creating xs; not so in the second function.

Why not so in the second function?

Friedman on Utility

by billswift 1 min read22nd Nov 200932 comments

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I just came across an essay David Friedman posted last Monday The Ambiguity of Utility that presents one of the problems I have with using utilities as the foundation of some "rational" morality.