chapter  22
5 Pages

THE ECONOMIC COMPUTATION OF UTILITY

The primary values of needs cannot be computed or reduced to a common standard in multiples of which they may be represented. They have no objective numerical magnitude but have only degrees of intensity. The latter may be compared, but only in relative terms: i. e., greater, less or equal. These degrees of intensity do not have a relationship to some unit in terms of which they may be numerically expressed as multiples or fractions. In the comparison of these intensities there is only a feeling that there is a greater spread between one pair of magnitudes than between another. This feeling gains more definite expression only in so far as the observer's perception of the distance traversed in passing from one intensity to another involves a greater or less number of intermediate degrees. Thus, for example, one is not able to say how much greater the stimulus of an extreme sensation of hunger is than that of a simple aesthetic pleasure. However, one may estimate the divergence by reviving the experiences and finding a more definite expression of the spread in a comparison of each with a series of stimuli all of which are less intense than hunger and more intense than the aesthetic pleasure.