Encyclopedia of Law and Economics

2019 Edition
| Editors: Alain Marciano, Giovanni Battista Ramello

Value Incommensurability

  • Tomáš Sobek
  • Josef MontagEmail author
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4614-7753-2_748


Incommensurability is a failure, or impossibility, to make value comparisons of different choices. It represents an important criticism of the proportionality test in judicial decision-making and of the cost-benefit analysis as a tool for assessing public policy. This entry summarizes the basic theories of value incommensurability.

Motivation and Delineation

Incommensurability is a failure, or impossibility, to make value comparisons. Its consequence is that choices among incommensurable options cannot be led by reason, i.e., cannot be rational. A few examples may help to illustrate such choices: upon arrival at Auschwitz, Sophie is forced to choose which one of her two children would be gassed and which would proceed to the labor camp; an individual needs to choose whether to pursue a career as farmer or as a violinist; one wonders, whether Mozart is a better composer than Michelangelo was sculptor; a city needs to find a trade-off between air quality and heating during...

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Copyright information

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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of LawMasaryk UniversityBrnoCzech Republic
  2. 2.International School of EconomicsKazakh-British Technical UniversityAlmatyKazakhstan
  3. 3.Faculty of LawCharles UniversityPragueCzech Republic