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Rational choice and the transitivity of betterness

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  • Handfield, Toby

Abstract

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 that rational agents might regard some options as incommensurate in value, and will reasonably employ a heuristic of status quo maintenance to avoid suboptimal choices from incommensurate goods.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by University Library of Munich, Germany in its series MPRA Paper with number 49956.

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Date of creation: 20 Apr 2013
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Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:49956

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Keywords: Rational choice; transitivity; vagueness; status quo maintenance; incommensurate value;

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  1. Broome, John, 2006. "Weighing Lives," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199297702.
  2. Michael Mandler, 2004. "Status quo maintenance reconsidered: changing or incomplete preferences?," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 114(499), pages F518-F535, November.
  3. Qizilbash, Mozaffar, 2005. "Transitivity And Vagueness," Economics and Philosophy, Cambridge University Press, vol. 21(01), pages 109-131, April.
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