Monday, November 07, 2005

Ranking and Comparison

Today I was at a paper by Keith Dowding all about luck egalitarianism, expensive tastes and utility functions. He argued if two people are identical in external behaviour, we have no reason to posit different utility functions.

The problem is one of comparing different people. It’s like chalk and cheese.

It was with this in mind I was interested to see that Liverpool are officially ranked as the number one club side in the world. The methodology of this ranking (essentially assigning points for wins/draws in the usual way, weighted according to perceived difficulty of the competition) is explained here. At the bottom, it says

The World Club Ranking is a precise classification showing the real level of the clubs free of any subjective influence.
How ironic…


  1. Ben,

    actually, I'm not sure we do have no reason to posit the same utility function. Plausibly, we should be applying Occam's Razor here, and I'd've thought that Occam's Razor would argue that positing differences between entities which are observably identical is unnecessarily complicated.

  2. Rob, I said no reason to posit different utility functions. In fact, Keith also admitted we have no reason to posit sameness.

    Occam's Razor may be a valid epistemological principle, but certainly isn't in any way truth guiding (e.g. until they have grounds to posit otherwise, perhaps police should only look for one murderer - but that in no way rules out there could have been more).

    In any case, it's not obvious to me that assuming identical utility functions is making less of a metaphysical commitment. Saying they're different isn't saying any more than people have different tastes; whereas assuming two people are the same could be postulating a universal human nature or such.