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Pinpointing Utility

There is no value to a superconcept that crosses that boundary.

This doesn't seem to me to argue in favour of using wording that's associated with the (potentially illegitimate) superconcept to refer to one part of it. Also, the post you were responding to (conf)used both concepts of utility, so by that stage, they were already in the same discussion, even if they didn't belong there.

Two additional things, FWIW:

(1) There's a lot of existing literature that distinguishes between "decision utility" and "experienced utility" (where "decision utility" corresponds to preference representation) so there is an existing terminology already out there. (Although "experienced utility" doesn't necessarily have anything to do with preference or welfare aggregation either.)

(2) I view moral philosophy as a special case of decision theory (and e.g. axiomatic approaches and other tools of decision theory have been quite useful in to moral philosophy), so to the extent that your firewall intends to cut that off, I think it's problematic. (Not sure that's what you intend - but it's one interpretation of your words in this comment.) Even Harsanyi's argument, while flawed, is interesting in this regard (it's much more sophisticated than Phil's post, so I'd recommend checking it out if you haven't already.)

Pinpointing Utility

I'm hesitant to get into a terminology argument when we're in substantive agreement. Nonetheless, I personally find your rhetorical approach here a little confusing. (Perhaps I am alone in that.)

Yes, it's annoying when people use the word 'fruit' to refer to both apples and oranges, and as a result confuse themselves into trying to derive propositions about oranges from the properties of apples. But I'd suggest that it's not the most useful response to this problem to insist on using the word 'fruit' to refer exclusively to apples, and to proceed to make claims like 'fruit can't be orange coloured' that are false for some types of fruit. (Even more so when people have been using the word 'fruit' to refer to oranges for longer than they've been using it to refer to apples.) Aren't you just making it more difficult for people to get your point that apples and oranges are different?

On your current approach, every time you make a claim about fruit, I have to try to figure out from context whether you're really making a claim about all fruit, or just apples, or just oranges. And if I guess wrong, we just end up in a pointless and avoidable argument. Surely it's easier to instead phrase your claims as being about apples and oranges directly when they're intended to apply to only one type of fruit?

P.S. For the avoidance of doubt, and with apologies for obviousness: fruit=utility, apples=decision utility, oranges=substantive utility.

Pinpointing Utility

While I'm in broad agreement with you here, I'd nitpick on a few things.

Different utility functions are not commensurable.

Agree that decision-theoretic or VNM utility functions are not commensurable - they're merely mathematical representations of different individuals' preference orderings. But I worry that your language consistently ignores an older, and still entirely valid use of the utility concept. Other types of utility function (hedonic, or welfarist more broadly) may allow for interpersonal comparisons. (And unless you accept the possibility of such comparisons, any social welfare function you try to construct will likely end up running afoul of Arrow's impossibility theorem).

Translate the axioms into statements about people. Do they still seem reasonable?

I'm actually pretty much OK with Axioms 1 through 3 being applied to a population social welfare function. As Wei Dai pointed out in the linked thread (and Sen argues as well), it's 4 that seems the most problematic when translated to a population context. (Dealing with varying populations tends to be a stumbling block for aggregationist consequentialism in general.)

That said, the fact that decision utility != substantive utility also means that even if you accepted that all 4 VNM axioms were applicable, you wouldn't have proven average utilitarianism: the axioms do not, for example, rule out prioritarianism (which I think was Sen's main point).

Pinpointing Utility

Are you familiar with the debate between John Harsanyi and Amartya Sen on essentially this topic (which we've discussed ad nauseam before)? In response to an argument of Harsanyi's that purported to use the VNM axioms to justify utilitarianism, Sen reaches a conclusion that broadly aligns with your take on the issue.

If not, some useful references here.

ETA: I worry that I've unduly maligned Harsanyi by associating his argument too heavily with Phil's post. Although I still think it's wrong, Harsanyi's argument is rather more sophisticated than Phil's, and worth checking out if you're at all interested in this area.

Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, part 18, chapter 87

It wouldn't necessarily reflect badly on her: if someone has to die to take down Azkaban,* and Harry needs to survive to achieve other important goals, then Hermione taking it down seems like a non-foolish solution to me.

*This is hinted at as being at least a strong possibility.

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Offense versus harm minimization

Although I agree it's odd, it does in fact seem that there is gender information transferred / inferred from grammatical gender.

From Lera Boroditsky's Edge piece

Does treating chairs as masculine and beds as feminine in the grammar make Russian speakers think of chairs as being more like men and beds as more like women in some way? It turns out that it does. In one study, we asked German and Spanish speakers to describe objects having opposite gender assignment in those two languages. The descriptions they gave differed in a way predicted by grammatical gender. For example, when asked to describe a "key" — a word that is masculine in German and feminine in Spanish — the German speakers were more likely to use words like "hard," "heavy," "jagged," "metal," "serrated," and "useful," whereas Spanish speakers were more likely to say "golden," "intricate," "little," "lovely," "shiny," and "tiny." To describe a "bridge," which is feminine in German and masculine in Spanish, the German speakers said "beautiful," "elegant," "fragile," "peaceful," "pretty," and "slender," and the Spanish speakers said "big," "dangerous," "long," "strong," "sturdy," and "towering." This was true even though all testing was done in English, a language without grammatical gender. The same pattern of results also emerged in entirely nonlinguistic tasks (e.g., rating similarity between pictures). And we can also show that it is aspects of language per se that shape how people think: teaching English speakers new grammatical gender systems influences mental representations of objects in the same way it does with German and Spanish speakers.

Offense versus harm minimization

My understanding of the relevant research* is that it's a fairly consistent finding that masculine generics (a) do cause people to imagine men rather than women, and (b) that this can have negative effects ranging from impaired recall, comprehension, and self-esteem in women, to reducing female job applications. (Some of these negative effects have also been established for men from feminine generics as well, which favours using they/them/their rather than she/her as replacements.)

* There's an overview of some of this here (from p.26).

Med Patient Social Networks Are Better Scientific Institutions

Isn't the main difference just that they have a bigger sample. (e.g. "4x" in the hardcore group).

The Absent-Minded Driver

Isn't the claim in 6 (that there is a planning-optimal choice, but no action-optimal choice) inconsistent with 4 (a choice that is planning optimal is also action optimal)?

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