Toward eudaimonology: notes on a quantitative framework for the study of happiness

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After noting factors (concern for others, ignorance, irrationality) accounting for the divergences between preference and happiness, the question of representing the preference of an individual by a utility function is discussed, taking account of lexicographic ordering, imperfect discrimination and the corresponding concepts of semiorder and sub-semiorder. Methods to improve upon the interpersonal comparability of measures of happiness such as pinning down the dividing line of zero happiness and the use of a just perceivable increment of happiness are discussed. The relation of social welfare to individual welfare (i.e. happiness) is then considered. Some reasonable set of axioms ensuring that social welfare is a separable function of and indeed an unweighted sum of individual welfares are reviewed. Finally, happiness is regarded as a function of objective, institutional and subjective factors; an interdisciplinary approach is needed even for an incomplete analysis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)51-68
Number of pages18
JournalMathematical Social Sciences
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1980


  • Eudaimonology
  • Happiness
  • Preference
  • Semiorder
  • Social Welfare
  • Utilitarian
  • Utility

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