Against Constitutive Incommensurability or Buying and Selling Friends

Noûs 35 (s1):33 - 60 (2001)
Abstract
Recently, some of the leading proponents of the view that there is widespread incommensurability among goods have suggested that the incommensurability of some goods is a constitutive feature of the goods themselves. So, for example, a friendship and a million dollars are incommensurable because it is part of what it is to be a friendship that it be incommensurable with money. According to these ‘constitutive incommensurabilists’ incommensurability follows from the very nature of certain goods. In this paper, I examine this idea and argue that constitutive incommensurabilists have mistaken for constitutive incommensurability a particular emphatic kind of comparability. This examination involves an account of ‘higher’ and ‘lower’ goods and an explanation of how goods of different ‘types’ figure in practical conflict.
Keywords incommensurability  higher goods  value pluralism  friendship
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