Larry S. Temkin, 7 March 2017, 10h

March 07, 2017

ArgLab Research Colloquium

Part of the "Values in Argumentative Discourse" series [FCT-funded project PTDC/MHC-FIL/0521/2014]

Av. de Berna 26, I&D Building, First floor, room 1.05


Rethinking the Good—A Small Taste

Larry S. Temkin, Rutgers University, USA


Most people accept the Axiom of Transitivity:  if, all things considered, A is better than B, and B is better than C, then all things considered, A is better than C.  Moreover, importantly, most people believe that the Axiom of Transitivity is an analytic truth, or true as a matter of the logic of goodness.  Most people also believe that except in cases where we have agent-relative duties, or special obligations to individuals, we should be neutral with respect to people, places, and times, and they also accept various Pareto-like principles, assuming that if one outcome is better than another for each person, or at each moment, or at every place, then it must be better, all things considered

In this talk, I shall present an impossibility result, and some key examples that challenge these standard assumptions.  In doing this, I shall also distinguish between two rival conceptions of the good, an Internal Aspects View, and an Essentially Comparative View, and show that the latter will be difficult to reject, but that only the former guarantees the Axiom of Transitivity.  Overall, my arguments raise deep questions about our understanding of the good, moral ideals, and the nature of practical reasoning.

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Faculdade de Direito Universidade Nova de Lisboa