De Finetti vs Pareto: Pure Economics or Value Judgements

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Authors: Gabriele Serafini
Page Range: 67-83
Published in: Chaos and Complexity Letters, 16#2
ISSN: 1556-3995

Table of Contents

Abstract

Bruno de Finetti’s scientific work in the field of economics involved both a critique of pure economic theory, typically that of Vilfredo Pareto, and a reflection on normative economics, aimed at identifying alternative economic systems from which to choose. Our work, on the one hand, emphasises the unity of Bruno de Finetti’s scientific conception, with particular reference to the subjective theory underpinning it; on the other hand, it highlights the problematic nature of the relationship between his subjectivist epistemology and the interaction between independent subjects who are supposed to identify a general interest. Insofar as de Finetti believes that subjects are independent and reality is subjective, no one seems to be able to decide what the general interest is. Insofar as de Finetti believes, on the other hand, that in the subjective complexity of reality a general interest can be identified, he should renounce the subjective conception of reality. It does not seem possible to get out of this contradiction, unless one believes that not all individuals are endowed with the same capacities and limited by the same subjectivity, and therefore that there may exist a subject, or a category of subjects, capable of identifying a general interest, and therefore depositary of some form of superiority, even moral. In this case, however, the contradiction could be overcome only by excluding such a subject, or category of subjects, from the general condition of subjectivity to which individuals are generally subject, at the cost of having to assume superiority on the part of this individual, or these individuals. The root of this approach seems to us to pose the need to investigate more thoroughly the relationship, also theoretical, between Bruno de Finetti and the Italian cultural and social situation of the 1920s, in which it arose.

Keywords: Bruno de Finetti, Vilfredo Pareto, pure economics, subjective theory of probability, subjectivism

JEL Classification: B13; B41; B55

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