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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.

Suggested Citation

  • Handfield, Toby, 2013. "Rational choice and the transitivity of betterness," MPRA Paper 49956, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  • Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:49956
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    File URL: https://mpra.ub.uni-muenchen.de/49956/1/MPRA_paper_49956.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Qizilbash, Mozaffar, 2005. "Transitivity And Vagueness," Economics and Philosophy, Cambridge University Press, vol. 21(01), pages 109-131, April.
    2. Michael Mandler, 2004. "Status quo maintenance reconsidered: changing or incomplete preferences?," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 114(499), pages 518-535, November.
    3. Broome, John, 2006. "Weighing Lives," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199297702.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    More about this item

    Keywords

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

    JEL classification:

    • D01 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Microeconomic Behavior: Underlying Principles
    • D03 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Behavioral Microeconomics: Underlying Principles
    • D80 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - General
    • D89 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Other

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