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"It is sometimes claimed in the economic literature that discussions of the notions of utility and preferences are altogether unnecessary, since these are purely verbal definitions with no empirically observable consequences, i.e., entirely tautological. It does not seem to us that these are qualitatively inferior to certain well established and indispensable notions in physics, like force, mass, charge, etc. That is, while they are in their immediate form merely definitions, they become subject to empirical control through the theories which are built on them--and in no other way. Thus the notion of utility is raised above the status of a tautology by such economic theories as make use of it and the results of which can be compared with experience or at least with common sense."

-- John von Neumann and Oskar Morgenstern

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