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Incommensurability and vagueness in spectrum arguments : options for saving transitivity of betterness

Handfield, Toby and Rabinowicz, Wlodek LU (2017) In Philosophical Studies
Abstract

The spectrum argument purports to show that the better-than relation is not transitive, and consequently that orthodox value theory is built on dubious foundations. The argument works by constructing a sequence of increasingly less painful but more drawn-out experiences, such that each experience in the spectrum is worse than the previous one, yet the final experience is better than the experience with which the spectrum began. Hence the betterness relation admits cycles, threatening either transitivity or asymmetry of the relation. This paper examines recent attempts to block the spectrum argument, using the idea that it is a mistake to affirm that every experience in the spectrum is worse than its predecessor: an alternative... (More)

The spectrum argument purports to show that the better-than relation is not transitive, and consequently that orthodox value theory is built on dubious foundations. The argument works by constructing a sequence of increasingly less painful but more drawn-out experiences, such that each experience in the spectrum is worse than the previous one, yet the final experience is better than the experience with which the spectrum began. Hence the betterness relation admits cycles, threatening either transitivity or asymmetry of the relation. This paper examines recent attempts to block the spectrum argument, using the idea that it is a mistake to affirm that every experience in the spectrum is worse than its predecessor: an alternative hypothesis is that adjacent experiences may be incommensurable in value, or that due to vagueness in the underlying concepts, it is indeterminate which is better. While these attempts formally succeed as responses to the spectrum argument, they have additional, as yet unacknowledged costs that are significant. In order to effectively block the argument in its most typical form, in which the first element is radically inferior to the last, it is necessary to suppose that the incommensurability (or indeterminacy) is particularly acute: what might be called radical incommensurability (radical indeterminacy). We explain these costs, and draw some general lessons about the plausibility of the available options for those who wish to save orthodox axiology from the spectrum argument.

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organization
publishing date
type
Contribution to journal
publication status
epub
subject
keywords
Axiology, Incommensurability, Indeterminacy, Inferiority, Spectrum argument, Superiority, Temkin, Transitivity, Vagueness
in
Philosophical Studies
pages
15 pages
publisher
Springer Netherlands
external identifiers
  • scopus:85027887509
ISSN
0031-8116
DOI
10.1007/s11098-017-0963-9
language
English
LU publication?
yes
id
cfbbf5a3-cca3-4748-8540-f425547aff02
date added to LUP
2017-09-06 14:12:17
date last changed
2017-09-06 14:12:17
@article{cfbbf5a3-cca3-4748-8540-f425547aff02,
  abstract     = {<p>The spectrum argument purports to show that the better-than relation is not transitive, and consequently that orthodox value theory is built on dubious foundations. The argument works by constructing a sequence of increasingly less painful but more drawn-out experiences, such that each experience in the spectrum is worse than the previous one, yet the final experience is better than the experience with which the spectrum began. Hence the betterness relation admits cycles, threatening either transitivity or asymmetry of the relation. This paper examines recent attempts to block the spectrum argument, using the idea that it is a mistake to affirm that every experience in the spectrum is worse than its predecessor: an alternative hypothesis is that adjacent experiences may be incommensurable in value, or that due to vagueness in the underlying concepts, it is indeterminate which is better. While these attempts formally succeed as responses to the spectrum argument, they have additional, as yet unacknowledged costs that are significant. In order to effectively block the argument in its most typical form, in which the first element is radically inferior to the last, it is necessary to suppose that the incommensurability (or indeterminacy) is particularly acute: what might be called radical incommensurability (radical indeterminacy). We explain these costs, and draw some general lessons about the plausibility of the available options for those who wish to save orthodox axiology from the spectrum argument.</p>},
  author       = {Handfield, Toby and Rabinowicz, Wlodek},
  issn         = {0031-8116},
  keyword      = {Axiology,Incommensurability,Indeterminacy,Inferiority,Spectrum argument,Superiority,Temkin,Transitivity,Vagueness},
  language     = {eng},
  month        = {08},
  pages        = {15},
  publisher    = {Springer Netherlands},
  series       = {Philosophical Studies},
  title        = {Incommensurability and vagueness in spectrum arguments : options for saving transitivity of betterness},
  url          = {http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11098-017-0963-9},
  year         = {2017},
}