PLSC 118 - Lecture 6 - From Classical to Neoclassical Utilitarianism

Lecture 6 - From Classical to Neoclassical Utilitarianism


In this economics-oriented lecture, Professor Shapiro introduces neoclassical utilitarianism as it was formulated by economist Vilfredo Pareto and further described by Francis Edgeworth, examining such concepts as indifference curves, transitivity, the Pareto principle, and the Edgeworth box diagram. It is revealed that the main departure of neoclassical utilitarianism from classical utilitarianism was that it did away with Bentham's troublesome interpersonal comparisons of utility. However, Professor Shapiro explains that, if classical utilitarians didn't take the differences between individuals seriously enough, neoclassical utilitarians take these differences hyper-seriously. If classical utilitarianism can be interpreted as a radically redistributive doctrine, neoclassical utilitarianism becomes the exact opposite--that is, a doctrine that is quite friendly to the status quo.



Mill, On Liberty, chapters 1-2
Shapiro, Moral Foundations of Politics, chapter 3

Course Media





Low Bandwidth Video

mov [100MB]

High Bandwidth Video

mov [500MB]