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Value incomparability and indeterminacy

Constantinescu, Cristian (2012) Value incomparability and indeterminacy. Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 15 (1), pp. 57-70. ISSN 1386-2820.

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The paper examines two competing accounts of value incomparability presented in the recent literature. According to the standard account, developed most famously by Joseph Raz, incomparability means determinate failure of the three classic value relations (better than, worse than, and equally good): two value-bearers are incomparable with respect to a value V if and only if (i) it is false that x is better than y with respect to V, (ii) it is false that x is worse than y with respect to V, and (iii) it is false that x and y are equally good with respect to V. Most philosophers have followed Raz in adopting this account of incomparability. Recently, however, John Broome has advocated an alternative view, on which value incomparability is explained not in terms of determinate failure of the trichotomy of value relations, but in terms of vagueness, or indeterminacy. The paper aims to further Broome’s view in two ways. Firstly, it seeks to supply some independent reasons for thinking that the phenomenon of value incomparability is indeed a matter of the indeterminacy inherent in our comparative predicates. Secondly, it attempts to defend Broome’s account by warding off several objections that worry him, due mainly to Ruth Chang and Erik Carlson.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: The original publication is available at
School or Research Centre: Birkbeck Schools and Research Centres > School of Social Sciences, History and Philosophy > Philosophy
Depositing User: Administrator
Date Deposited: 12 Jan 2011 11:28
Last Modified: 17 Apr 2013 12:33

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