Are you using ‘utility’ in the economic context, for which a utility function is purely ordinal? Perhaps I should have used a different word, but I’m referring to ‘net positive conscious mental states,’ which intuitively doesn’t seem to suffer from the same issues.
Yes, I was using it in the economic sense. If we say something like “net positive conscious mental states”, it’s still unclear what it would mean to add up such things. What would “positive conscious mental state” mean, in a sense which can be added across humans, without running into the same problems which come up for utility?
I don’t think it is operationalizable, but I fail to see why ‘net positive mental states’ isn’t a meaningful, real value. Maybe the units would be apple*minutes or something, where one unit is equivalent to the pleasure you get by eating an apple for one minute. It seems that this could in principle be calculated with full information about everyone’s conscious experience.