How to accept the transitivity of better than
- 265 Downloads
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 preserves transitivity. On the threshold-based model of lexicality defended here, hedonic episodes whose intensity is above a certain point are lexically greater (in absolute magnitude) than those whose intensity is below it. The final sections argue that this model is independently plausible and can be defended from several important objections.
KeywordsIntransitivity Repugnant conclusion Parfit Temkin Rachels
I am grateful to Rekha Nath, Stuart Rachels, Chase Wrenn, and an anonymous referee for helpful feedback and discussion on earlier drafts of this paper.
- Aristotle. (1999). Nichomachean ethics. (2nd ed.). Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company.Google Scholar
- Broome, J. (2006). Weighing lives. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Ellis, B. (1966). Basic concepts of measurement. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
- Griffin, J. (1986). Well-being: Its meaning, measurement and moral importance. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Katz, L. (2012). Why the law is so perverse. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
- Kavka, G. (1982). The paradox of future individuals. Philosophy and Public Affairs, 11, 93–112.Google Scholar
- Krantz, D., et al. (1971). Foundations of measurement (Vol. I). Mineola: Dover.Google Scholar
- McTaggart, J. M. E. (1927). The nature of existence (Vol. 2). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
- Parfit, D. (1984). Reasons and persons. Oxford: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar
- Parfit, D. (1986). Overpopulation and the quality of life. In P. Singer (Ed.), Applied ethics. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Temkin, L. S. (2012). Rethinking the good. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar