Document Type


Publication Date

Winter 1-1-2007


Transitivity, Intransitivity, Value, Temkin, Trade-offs


This paper deals with problems that vagueness raises for choices involving evaluative tradeoffs. I focus on a species of such choices, which I call ‘qualitative barrier cases.’ These are cases in which a qualitatively significant tradeoff in one evaluative dimension for a given improvement in another dimension could not make an option better all things considered, but a merely quantitative tradeoff for the given improvement might. Trouble arises, however, when one of the options constitutes a borderline case of an evaluative kind. I argue that in such cases we can neither affirm nor deny that trading off losses in one evaluative dimension for gains in another yields a better outcome. Theoretically, this result provides a way to defuse an argument that has been presented by both Larry Temkin and Stuart Rachels that purports to show that the ‘better than’ relation is intransitive. Practically, it allows us to undermine the claim that rational agents are better off withholding their contribution to a public good in certain instances of the free-rider problem, and thus to take an important step towards solving these problems.

Publisher Attribution

Journal of Philosophical Research Volume 32, 2007 Pages 211-233

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License

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Philosophy Commons



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