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  1. Defending the Transitivity of "Better Than" in the Face of Axiological Relativity.Irene Bosco - manuscript
    At first sight, if A is all-things-considered better than B and B is all-things-considered better than C, the judgment that A is all-things-considered better than C seems to follow. This should be a straight-forward consequence of the transitivity of the \all-things-considered better than" relation. However, if we deny that transitivity is a logical axiom of those relations involving comparatives, then it might turn out that betterness is not transitive. Following Temkin's terminology, a relation R will be de ned as nontransitive (...)
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  2. Money-Pump Arguments.Johan E. Gustafsson - forthcoming - Cambridge University Press.
    Suppose that you prefer A to B, B to C, and A to C. Your preferences violate Expected Utility Theory by being cyclic. Money-pump arguments offer a way to show that such violations are irrational. Suppose that you start with A. Then you should be willing to trade A for C and then C for B. But then, once you have C, you are offered a trade back to A for a small cost. Since you prefer A to C, you (...)
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  3. Sources of Transitivity.Daniel Muñoz - forthcoming - Economics and Philosophy.
    Why should be ‘better than’ be transitive? The leading answer in ethics is that values do not change with context. But this cannot be the entire source of transitivity, I argue, since transitivity can fail even if values never change, so long as they are complex, with multiple dimensions combined non-additively. I conclude by exploring a new hypothesis: that all alleged cases of nontransitive betterness, such as Parfit’s Repugnant Conclusion, can and should be modeled as the result of complexity, not (...)
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  4. The Many, the Few, and the Nature of Value.Daniel Muñoz - forthcoming - Ergo: An Open Access Journal of Philosophy.
    John Taurek argues that, in a choice between saving the many or the few, the numbers should not count. Some object that this view clashes with the transitivity of ‘better than’; others insist the clash can be avoided. I defend a middle ground: Taurek cannot have transitivity, but that doesn’t doom his view, given a suitable conception of value. I then formalize and explore two conceptions: one context-sensitive, one multidimensional.
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  5. Path Independence and a Persistent Paradox of Population Ethics.Rush T. Stewart - forthcoming - Journal of Philosophy.
    In the face of an impossibility result, some assumption must be relaxed. The Mere Addition Paradox is an impossibility result in population ethics. Here, I explore substantially weakening the decision-theoretic assumptions involved. The central finding is that the Mere Addition Paradox persists even in the general framework of choice functions when we assume Path Independence as a minimal decision-theoretic constraint. Choice functions can be thought of either as generalizing the standard axiological assumption of a binary “betterness” relation, or as providing (...)
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  6. Are Spectrum Arguments Defused by Vagueness?Teruji Thomas - forthcoming - Australasian Journal of Philosophy.
    I consider paradoxical spectrum arguments involving transitive relations like 'better than'. I argue that, despite being formally different from sorites arguments, at least some spectrum arguments arise from vagueness, and that vagueness might often be the most natural diagnosis.
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  7. Sorites On What Matters.Theron Pummer - 2022 - In Jeff McMahan, Timothy Campbell, Ketan Ramakrishnan & Jimmy Goodrich (eds.), Ethics and Existence: The Legacy of Derek Parfit. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 498–523.
    Ethics in the tradition of Derek Parfit’s Reasons and Persons is riddled with sorites-like arguments, which lead us by what seem innocent steps to seemingly false conclusions. Take, for example, spectrum arguments for the Repugnant Conclusion that appeal to slight differences in quality of life. Several authors have taken the view that, since spectrum arguments are structurally analogous to sorites arguments, the correct response to spectrum arguments is structurally analogous to the correct response to sorites arguments. This sorites analogy is (...)
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  8. Transfinitely Transitive Value.Kacper Kowalczyk - 2021 - Philosophical Quarterly 72 (1):108-134.
    This paper develops transfinite extensions of transitivity and acyclicity in the context of population ethics. They are used to argue that it is better to add good lives, worse to add bad lives, and equally good to add neutral lives, where a life's value is understood as personal value. These conclusions rule out a number of theories of population ethics, feed into an argument for the repugnant conclusion, and allow us to reduce different-number comparisons to same-number ones. Challenges to these (...)
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  9. Three Paradoxes of Supererogation.Daniel Muñoz - 2021 - Noûs 55 (3):699-716.
    Supererogatory acts—good deeds “beyond the call of duty”—are a part of moral common sense, but conceptually puzzling. I propose a unified solution to three of the most infamous puzzles: the classic Paradox of Supererogation (if it’s so good, why isn’t it just obligatory?), Horton’s All or Nothing Problem, and Kamm’s Intransitivity Paradox. I conclude that supererogation makes sense if, and only if, the grounds of rightness are multi-dimensional and comparative.
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  10. A Simpler, More Compelling Money Pump with Foresight.Johan E. Gustafsson & Wlodek Rabinowicz - 2020 - Journal of Philosophy 117 (10):578-589.
    One might think that money pumps directed at agents with cyclic preferences can be avoided by foresight. This view was challenged two decades ago by the discovery of a money pump with foresight, which works against agents who use backward induction. But backward induction implausibly assumes that the agent would act rationally and retain her trust in her future rationality even at choice nodes that could only be reached if she were to act irrationally. This worry does not apply to (...)
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  11. Infinite options, intransitive value, and supererogation.Daniel Muñoz - 2020 - Philosophical Studies 178 (6):2063-2075.
    Supererogatory acts are those that lie “beyond the call of duty.” There are two standard ways to define this idea more precisely. Although the definitions are often seen as equivalent, I argue that they can diverge when options are infinite, or when there are cycles of better options; moreover, each definition is acceptable in only one case. I consider two ways out of this dilemma.
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  12. Mereological Dominance and Simpson’s Paradox.Tung-Ying Wu - 2020 - Philosophia: Philosophical Quarterly of Israel 48 (1):391–404.
    Numerous papers have investigated the transitivity principle of ‘better-than.’ A recent argument appeals to the principle of mereological dominance for transitivity. However, writers have not treated mereological dominance in much detail. This paper sets out to evaluate the generality of mereological dominance and its effectiveness in supporting the transitivity principle. I found that the mereological dominance principle is vulnerable to a counterexample based on Simpson’s Paradox. The thesis concludes that the mereological dominance principle should be revised in certain ways.
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  13. Better Than.Chrisoula Andreou - 2019 - Philosophical Studies 176 (6):1621-1638.
    It is commonly held that rational preferences must be acyclic. There have, however, been cases that have been put forward as counterexamples to this view. This paper focuses on the following question: If the counterexamples are compelling and rational preferences can be cyclic, what should we conclude about the presumed acyclicity of the “better than” relation? Building on some revisionary suggestions concerning acyclicity and betterness, I make a case for hanging on to the presumption that “better than” is acyclic even (...)
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  14. Opaque Sweetening and Transitivity.Ryan Doody - 2019 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 97 (3):559-571.
    I argue that any plausible decision theory for agents with incomplete preferences which obeys the Never Worse Principle will violate Transitivity. The Never Worse Principle says that if one option never does worse than another, you shouldn’t disprefer it. Transitivity says that if you prefer X to Y and you prefer Y to Z, then you should prefer X to Z. Violating Transitivity allows one to be money pumped. Although agents with incomplete preferences are already, in virtue of having incomplete (...)
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  15. Incommensurability and Vagueness in Spectrum Arguments: Options for Saving Transitivity of Betterness.Toby Handfield & Wlodek Rabinowicz - 2018 - Philosophical Studies 175 (9):2373-2387.
    The spectrum argument purports to show that the better-than relation is not transitive, and consequently that orthodox value theory is built on dubious foundations. The argument works by constructing a sequence of increasingly less painful but more drawn-out experiences, such that each experience in the spectrum is worse than the previous one, yet the final experience is better than the experience with which the spectrum began. Hence the betterness relation admits cycles, threatening either transitivity or asymmetry of the relation. This (...)
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  16. The Good, the Bad, and the Transitivity of Better Than.Jacob M. Nebel - 2018 - Noûs 52 (4):874-899.
    The Rachels–Temkin spectrum arguments against the transitivity of better than involve good or bad experiences, lives, or outcomes that vary along multiple dimensions—e.g., duration and intensity of pleasure or pain. This paper presents variations on these arguments involving combinations of good and bad experiences, which have even more radical implications than the violation of transitivity. These variations force opponents of transitivity to conclude that something good is worse than something that isn’t good, on pain of rejecting the good altogether. That (...)
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  17. Spectrum Arguments and Hypersensitivity.Theron Pummer - 2018 - Philosophical Studies 175 (7):1729-1744.
    Larry Temkin famously argues that what he calls spectrum arguments yield strong reason to reject Transitivity, according to which the ‘all-things-considered better than’ relation is transitive. Spectrum arguments do reveal that the conjunctions of independently plausible claims are inconsistent with Transitivity. But I argue that there is very strong independent reason to reject such conjunctions of claims, and thus that the fact that they are inconsistent with Transitivity does not yield strong reason to reject Transitivity.
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  18. Must Consequentialists Kill?Kieran Setiya - 2018 - Journal of Philosophy 115 (2):92-105.
    Argues that the ethics of killing and saving lives is best described by agent-neutral consequentialism, not by appeal to agent-centred restrictions. It does not follow that killings are worse than accidental deaths or that you should kill one to prevent more killings. The upshot is a puzzle about killing and letting die.
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  19. Transitivity, Moral Latitude, and Supererogation.Douglas W. Portmore - 2017 - Utilitas 29 (3):286-298.
    On what I take to be the standard account of supererogation, an act is supererogatory if and only if it is morally optional and there is more moral reason to perform it than to perform some permissible alternative. And, on this account, an agent has more moral reason to perform one act than to perform another if and only if she morally ought to prefer how things would be if she were to perform the one to how things would be (...)
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  20. Cashing Out the Money-Pump Argument.Chrisoula Andreou - 2016 - Philosophical Studies (6):1-5.
    The money-pump argument figures as the staple argument in support of the view that cyclic preferences are irrational. According to a prominent way of understanding the argument, it is grounded in the assumption that it is irrational to make choices that lead one to a dispreferred alternative. My aim in this paper is to motivate diffidence with respect to understanding the money-pump argument in this way by suggesting that if it is so understood, the argument emerges as question-begging and as (...)
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  21. Money Pumps, Incompleteness, and Indeterminacy.Johan E. Gustafsson - 2016 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 92 (1):60-72.
    In an alleged counter-example to the completeness of rational preferences, a career as a clarinettist is compared with a career in law. It seems reasonable to neither want to judge that the law career is at least as preferred as the clarinet career nor want to judge that the clarinet career is at least as preferred as the law career. The two standard interpretations of examples of this kind are, first, that the examples show that preferences are rationally permitted to (...)
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  22. Essentially Comparative Value Does Not Threaten Transitivity.Toby Handfield - 2016 - Thought: A Journal of Philosophy 5 (1):3-12.
    The essentially comparative conception of value entails that the value of a state of affairs does not depend solely upon features intrinsic to the state of affairs, but also upon extrinsic features, such as the set of feasible alternatives. It has been argued that this conception of value gives us reason to abandon the transitivity of the better than relation. This paper shows that the support for intransitivity derived from this conception of value is very limited. On its most plausible (...)
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  23. How to Accept the Transitivity of Better Than.Justin Klocksiem - 2016 - Philosophical Studies 173 (5):1309-1334.
    Although the thesis that the moral better than relation is transitive seems obviously true, there is a growing literature according to which Parfit’s repugnant conclusion and related puzzles reveal that this thesis is false or problematic. This paper begins by presenting several such puzzles and explaining how they can be used in arguments for the intransitivity of better than. It then proposes and defends a plausible alternative picture of the behavior of better than that both resolves the repugnant conclusion and (...)
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  24. Modeling Value Disagreement.Erich Rast - 2016 - Erkenntnis 81 (4):853-880.
    In this article, monist values are expressed as preferences like in economics and decision making. On the basis of this formalization, various ways of defining value disagreement of agents within a group are investigated. Twelve notions of categorical value disagreement are laid out. Since these are too coarse-grained for many purposes, known distance-based approaches like Kendall’s Tau and Spearman’s footrule are generalized from linear orders to preorders and position-sensitive variants are developed. The account is further generalized to allow for agents (...)
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  25. IIA, Rationality, and the Individuation of Options.Tina Rulli & Alex Worsnip - 2016 - Philosophical Studies 173 (1):205-221.
    The independence of irrelevant alternatives is a popular and important axiom of decision theory. It states, roughly, that one’s choice from a set of options should not be influenced by the addition or removal of further, unchosen options. In recent debates, a number of authors have given putative counterexamples to it, involving intuitively rational agents who violate IIA. Generally speaking, however, these counterexamples do not tend to move IIA’s proponents. Their strategy tends to be to individuate the options that the (...)
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  26. Infallibility in the Newcomb Problem.Arif Ahmed - 2015 - Erkenntnis 80 (2):261-273.
    It is intuitively attractive to think that it makes a difference in Newcomb’s problem whether or not the predictor is infallible, in the sense of being certainly actually correct. This paper argues that that view is irrational and manifests a well-documented cognitive illusion.
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  27. The Real Puzzle of the Self-Torturer: Uncovering a New Dimension of Instrumental Rationality.Chrisoula Andreou - 2015 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy 45 (5-6):562-575.
    The puzzle of the self-torturer raises intriguing questions concerning rationality, cyclic preferences, and resoluteness. Interestingly, what makes the case puzzling has not been clearly pinpointed. The puzzle, it seems, is that a series of rational choices foreseeably leads the self-torturer to an option that serves his preferences worse than the one with which he started. But this is a very misleading way of casting the puzzle. I pinpoint the real puzzle of the self-torturer and, in the process, reveal a neglected (...)
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  28. Status Quo Bias, Rationality, and Conservatism About Value.Jacob M. Nebel - 2015 - Ethics 125 (2):449-476.
    Many economists and philosophers assume that status quo bias is necessarily irrational. I argue that, in some cases, status quo bias is fully rational. I discuss the rationality of status quo bias on both subjective and objective theories of the rationality of preferences. I argue that subjective theories cannot plausibly condemn this bias as irrational. I then discuss one kind of objective theory, which holds that a conservative bias toward existing things of value is rational. This account can fruitfully explain (...)
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  29. Hope for Fools: Four Proposals for Meeting Temkin's Challenge.Christian Coons - 2014 - Analysis 74 (2):292-306.
  30. Rational Choice and the Transitivity of Betterness.Toby Handfield - 2014 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 89 (3):584-604.
    If A is better than B and B is better than C, then A is better than C, right? Larry Temkin and Stuart Rachels say: No! Betterness is nontransitive, they claim. In this paper, I discuss the central type of argument advanced by Temkin and Rachels for this radical idea, and argue that, given this view very likely has sceptical implications for practical reason, we would do well to identify alternative responses. I propose one such response, which employs the idea (...)
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  31. The Irrelevance of the Diachronic Money-Pump Argument for Acyclicity.Johan E. Gustafsson - 2013 - Journal of Philosophy 110 (8):460–464.
    The money-pump argument is the standard argument for the acyclicity of rational preferences. The argument purports to show that agents with cyclic preferences are in some possible situations forced to act against their preference. In the usual, diachronic version of the money-pump argument, such agents accept a series of trades that leaves them worse off than before. Two stock objections are (i) that one may get the drift and refuse the trades and (ii) that one may adopt a plan to (...)
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  32. Intuitions About Large Number Cases.Theron Pummer - 2013 - Analysis 73 (1):37-46.
    Is there some large number of very mild hangnail pains, each experienced by a separate person, which would be worse than two years of excruciating torture, experienced by a single person? Many people have the intuition that the answer to this question is No. However, a host of philosophers have argued that, because we have no intuitive grasp of very large numbers, we should not trust such intuitions. I argue that there is decent intuitive support for the No answer, which (...)
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  33. Vaulting Intuition: Temkin's Critique of Transitivity.Alex Voorhoeve - 2013 - Economics and Philosophy 29 (3):409-425.
    In 'Rethinking the Good', Larry Temkin makes two core claims. First, the goodness of a distribution is sometimes ‘essentially comparative’ – it sometimes depends on which alternative distribution(s) it is compared to. Second, such cases threaten the transitivity of ‘all things considered better than’. I argue that the goodness of a distribution may indeed depend on what other distributions are feasible. But contrary to Temkin, I also argue that transitivity holds even when the goodness of a distribution depends on the (...)
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  34. Preference and Choice.Johan E. Gustafsson - 2011 - Dissertation, Royal Institute of Technology
  35. Tragedies Without Commons.Christopher Knapp - 2011 - Public Affairs Quarterly 25 (1):81-94.
    Commons problems are, understandably enough, typically thought to be problems about commons. In this paper, however, I argue that what generates some prominent examples of commons problems is not open access to a good. Instead, what generates some commons problems is a conflict of values that have different structures. After making this case, I show how the existence of such problems can motivate a version of the Precautionary Principle and a (qualified) rejection of cost-benefit analysis.
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  36. A Money-Pump for Acyclic Intransitive Preferences.Johan E. Gustafsson - 2010 - Dialectica 64 (2):251-257.
    The standard argument for the claim that rational preferences are transitive is the pragmatic money-pump argument. However, a money-pump only exploits agents with cyclic strict preferences. In order to pump agents who violate transitivity but without a cycle of strict preferences, one needs to somehow induce such a cycle. Methods for inducing cycles of strict preferences from non-cyclic violations of transitivity have been proposed in the literature, based either on offering the agent small monetary transaction premiums or on multi-dimensional preferences. (...)
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  37. Conflicting Reasons in the Small-Improvement Argument.Johan E. Gustafsson & Nicolas Espinoza - 2010 - Philosophical Quarterly 60 (241):754-763.
    The small-improvement argument is usually considered the most powerful argument against comparability, viz the view that for any two alternatives an agent is rationally required either to prefer one of the alternatives to the other or to be indifferent between them. We argue that while there might be reasons to believe each of the premises in the small-improvement argument, there is a conflict between these reasons. As a result, the reasons do not provide support for believing the conjunction of the (...)
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  38. Parity, Intransitivity, and a Context-Sensitive Degree Analysis of Gradability.Yitzhak Benbaji - 2009 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 87 (2):313-335.
    Larry Temkin challenged what seems to be an analytic truth about comparatives: if A is Φ-er than B and B is Φ-er than C, then, A is Φ-er than C. Ruth Chang denies a related claim: if A is Φ-er than B and C is not Φ-er than B, but is Φ to a certain degree, then A is Φ-er than C. In this paper I advance a context-sensitive semantics of gradability according to which the data uncovered by Temkin and (...)
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  39. Reply to Rabinowicz.John Broome - 2009 - Philosophical Issues 19 (1):412-417.
  40. Pluralism, Intransitivity, Incoherence.William A. Edmundson - 2009 - In Mark White (ed.), THEORETICAL FOUNDATIONS OF LAW AND ECONOMICS. Cambridge University Press.
    Pluralism is an appealing and now orthodox view of the sources of value. But pluralism has led to well-known difficulties for social-choice theory. Moreover, as Susan Hurley has argued, the difficulties of pluralism go even deeper. In 1954, Kenneth May suggested an intrapersonal analogue to Arrow's Impossibility Theorem. In brief, May showed that an individual's response to a plurality of values will, given certain additional assumptions, lead to intransitive preference orderings. (Daniel Kahneman and others have shown that intransitivity is an (...)
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  41. Risk, Everyday Intuitions, and the Institutional Value of Tort Law.Govind C. Persad - 2009 - Stan. L. Rev 62:1445.
    This Note offers a normative critique of cost-benefit analysis, one informed by deontological moral theory, in the context of the debate over whether tort litigation or a non-tort approach is the appropriate response to mass harm. The first Part argues that the difference between lay and expert intuitions about risk and harm often reflects a difference in normative judgments about the existing facts, rather than a difference in belief about what facts exist, which makes the lay intuitions more defensible. The (...)
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  42. Rationality and Intransitive Preference: Foundations for The Modern View.Paul Anand - 2008 - Proceedings of the Xxii World Congress of Philosophy 22:5-15.
    “Radical The paper provides a survey of arguments for claims that rational agents should have transitive preferences and argues that they are not valid. The presentation is based on a chapter for the forthcoming Oxford Handbook of Rational and Social Choice.
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  43. Heuristics and Biases in a Purported Counter-Example to the Acyclicity of "Better Than".Alex Voorhoeve - 2008 - Politics, Philosophy and Economics 7 (3):285-299.
    Stuart Rachels and Larry Temkin have offered a purported counter-example to the acyclicity of the relationship 'all things considered better than'. This example invokes our intuitive preferences over pairs of alternatives involving a single person's painful experiences of varying intensity and duration. These preferences, Rachels and Temkin claim, are confidently held, entirely reasonable, and cyclical. They conclude that we should drop acyclicity as a requirement of rationality. I argue that, together with the findings of recent research on the way people (...)
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  44. Trading Quality for Quantity.Christopher Knapp - 2007 - Journal of Philosophical Research 32 (1):211-233.
    This paper deals with problems that vagueness raises for choices involving evaluative tradeoffs. I focus on a species of such choices, which I call ‘qualitative barrier cases.’ These are cases in which a qualitatively significant tradeoff in one evaluative dimension for a given improvement in another dimension could not make an option better all things considered, but a merely quantitative tradeoff for the given improvement might. Trouble arises, however, when one of the options constitutes a borderline case of an evaluative (...)
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  45. Trading Quality for Quantity.Christopher Knapp - 2007 - Journal of Philosophical Research 32:211-233.
    This paper deals with problems that vagueness raises for choices involving evaluative tradeoffs. I focus on a species of such choices, which I call ‘qualitative barrier cases.’ These are cases in which a qualitatively significant tradeoff in one evaluative dimension for a given improvement in another dimension could not make an option better all things considered, but a merely quantitative tradeoff for the given improvement might. Trouble arises, however, when one of the options constitutes a borderline case of an evaluative (...)
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  46. Breaking Ties: The Significance of Choice in Symmetrical Moral Dilemmas.Carla Bagnoli - 2006 - Dialectica 60 (2):157–170.
    In symmetrical moral dilemmas, the agent faces a choice between two incompatible actions, which are equally justified on the basis of the same value. These cases are generally discounted as spurious or irrelevant on the assumption that, when there is no failure of commensurability, choice between symmetrical requirements is indifferent and can be determined by randomization. Alternatively, this article argues that the appeal to randomization allows the agent to overcome a deliberative impasse, but it does not really resolve the moral (...)
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  47. Transitivity, the Sorites Paradox, and Similarity-Based Decision-Making.Alex Voorhoeve & Ken Binmore - 2006 - Erkenntnis 64 (1):101-114.
    A persistent argument against the transitivity assumption of rational choice theory postulates a repeatable action that generates a significant benefit at the expense of a negligible cost. No matter how many times the action has been taken, it therefore seems reasonable for a decision-maker to take the action one more time. However, matters are so fixed that the costs of taking the action some large number of times outweigh the benefits. In taking the action some large number of times on (...)
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  48. Millian Superiorities.Gustaf Arrhenius & Wlodek Rabinowicz - 2005 - Utilitas 17 (2):127-146.
    Suppose one sets up a sequence of less and less valuable objects such that each object in the sequence is only marginally worse than its immediate predecessor. Could one in this way arrive at something that is dramatically inferior to the point of departure? It has been claimed that if there is a radical value difference between the objects at each end of the sequence, then at some point there must be a corresponding radical difference between the adjacent elements. The (...)
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  49. Repugnance or Intransitivity: A Repugnant But Forced Choice.Stuart Rachels - 2004 - In Jesper Ryberg Torbjorn Tannsjo (ed.), The Repugnant Conclusion: Essays on Population Ethics. Kluwer Academic Publishers. pp. 163--86.
    A set of arguments shows that either the Repugnant Conclusion and its variants are true or the better-than relation isn't transitive. Which is it? This is the most important question in population ethics. The answer will point the way to Parfit's elusive Theory X.
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  50. The Repugnant Conclusion: Essays on Population Ethics.Torbjörn Tännsjö & Jesper Ryberg (eds.) - 2004 - Kluwer Academic Publishers.
    Most people (including moral philosophers), when faced with the fact that some of their cherished moral views lead up to the Repugnant Conclusion, feel that they have to revise their moral outlook. However, it is a moot question as to how this should be done. It is not an easy thing to say how one should avoid the Repugnant Conclusion, without having to face even more serious implications from one's basic moral outlook. Several such attempts are presented in this volume. (...)
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