Intransitivity and the person-affecting principle


Philosophy journals and conferences have recently seen several attempts to argue that 'all-things-considered better than' does not obey strict transitivity. This paper focuses on Larry Temkin's argument in "Intransitivity and the Mere Addition Paradox." Although his argument is not aimed just at utilitarians or even consequentialists in general, it is of prticular significance to consequentialists. If 'all-things-considered better than' does not obey transitivity, there may be choice situations in which there is no optimal choice, which would seem to open the door to a consequentialist account of moral dilemmas. Temkin's argument crucially appeals to what he calls "the Person-Affecting Principle (PAP)", which he roughly characterizes as follows, "On PAP, one outcome is worse than another only if it affects people for the worse" This paper argues that PAP, although plausible, does not hold in precisely those situations in which it would have to hold in order for Temkin's argument against transitivity to work.

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Alastair Norcross
University of Colorado, Boulder

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Citations of this work

Vaulting Intuition: Temkin's Critique of Transitivity.Alex Voorhoeve - 2013 - Economics and Philosophy 29 (3):409-425.
Rethinking the Person-Affecting Principle.Jacob Ross - 2015 - Journal of Moral Philosophy 12 (4):428-461.
Aggregation with Constraints.Korbinian Rüger - 2020 - Utilitas 32 (4):454-471.
Making Non-Transitive Betterness Behave.Gerard Vong - 2018 - Journal of Moral Philosophy 15 (5):495-515.

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