In this chapter I review the contributions to utility theory that Samuelson made when he was a Ph.D. student at Harvard, from the first scientific papers he began writing in 1936 to the Ph.D. dissertation he submitted in November 1940. Based on this review, I make three points: (1) after exploring contrasting research paths during the years 1936–1937, Samuelson’s stance on utility analysis quickly stabilized and, from around mid-1938, he became an advocate of an ordinal-utility approach to choice theory; (2) accordingly, the widespread image of the young Samuelson as a committed behaviorist who wanted to free economic analysis from the utility concept is misleading; (3) the so-called Das Paul Samuelson Problem, that is, the question of whether Samuelson changed his mind on utility analysis between 1938 and 1948–1950, has either a negative answer or is ill-posed.

Not a Behaviorist: Samuelson’s Contributions to Utility Theory in the Harvard Years, 1936–1940

Ivan Moscati
2019

Abstract

In this chapter I review the contributions to utility theory that Samuelson made when he was a Ph.D. student at Harvard, from the first scientific papers he began writing in 1936 to the Ph.D. dissertation he submitted in November 1940. Based on this review, I make three points: (1) after exploring contrasting research paths during the years 1936–1937, Samuelson’s stance on utility analysis quickly stabilized and, from around mid-1938, he became an advocate of an ordinal-utility approach to choice theory; (2) accordingly, the widespread image of the young Samuelson as a committed behaviorist who wanted to free economic analysis from the utility concept is misleading; (3) the so-called Das Paul Samuelson Problem, that is, the question of whether Samuelson changed his mind on utility analysis between 1938 and 1948–1950, has either a negative answer or is ill-posed.
9781137568113
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/11383/2075422
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