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A set of solutions to Parfit's problems

Noûs 35 (2):214–238 (2001)

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  1. Defending Transitivity Against Zeno’s Paradox.Ken Binmore & Alex Voorhoeve - 2003 - Philosophy and Public Affairs 31 (3):272–279.
    This article criticises one of Stuart Rachels' and Larry Temkin's arguments against the transitivity of 'better than'. This argument invokes our intuitions about our preferences of different bundles of pleasurable or painful experiences of varying intensity and duration, which, it is argued, will typically be intransitive. This article defends the transitivity of 'better than' by showing that Rachels and Temkin are mistaken to suppose that preferences satisfying their assumptions must be intransitive. It makes cler where the argument goes wrong by (...)
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  • Resources and the Acceptability of the Repugnant Conclusion.Stephen J. Schmidt - forthcoming - Theoria. An International Journal for Theory, History and Foundations of Science.
    Parfit’s Repugnant Conclusion argues, against intuition, that for any world A, another world Z with higher population and minimal well-being is better. That intuition is incorrect because the argument has not considered resources that support well-being. Z must have many more resources supporting well-being than A does. Z is repugnant because it spreads those resources among too many people; another world with Z’s resources and fewer people, if available, would be far superior. But Z is still better than A; it (...)
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  • Rational Choice and the Transitivity of Betterness.Toby Handfield - 2014 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 89 (3):584-604.
    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 (...)
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  • Six Theses About Pleasure.Stuart Rachels - 2004 - Philosophical Perspectives 18 (1):247-267.
    I defend these claims: (1) 'Pleasure' has exactly one English antonym: 'unpleasure.' (2) Pleasure is the most convincing example of an organic unity. (3) The hedonic calculus is a joke. (4) An important type of pleasure is background pleasure. (5) Pleasures in bad company are still good. (6) Higher pleasures aren't pleasures (and if they were, they wouldn't be higher). Thesis (1) merely concerns terminology, but theses (2)-(6) are substantive, evaluative claims.
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  • The Good, the Bad, and the Transitivity of Better Than.Jacob M. Nebel - 2018 - Noûs 52 (4):874-899.
    The Rachels–Temkin spectrum arguments against the transitivity of better than involve good or bad experiences, lives, or outcomes that vary along multiple dimensions—e.g., duration and intensity of pleasure or pain. This paper presents variations on these arguments involving combinations of good and bad experiences, which have even more radical implications than the violation of transitivity. These variations force opponents of transitivity to conclude that something good is worse than something that isn’t good, on pain of rejecting the good altogether. That (...)
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  • Lexical Priority and the Problem of Risk.Michael Huemer - 2010 - Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 91 (3):332-351.
    Some theories of practical reasons incorporate a lexical priority structure, according to which some practical reasons have infinitely greater weight than others. This includes absolute deontological theories and axiological theories that take some goods to be categorically superior to others. These theories face problems involving cases in which there is a non-extreme probability that a given reason applies. In view of such cases, lexical-priority theories are in danger of becoming irrelevant to decision-making, becoming absurdly demanding, or generating paradoxical cases in (...)
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  • Transfinitely Transitive Value.Kacper Kowalczyk - 2021 - Philosophical Quarterly 72 (1):108-134.
    This paper develops transfinite extensions of transitivity and acyclicity in the context of population ethics. They are used to argue that it is better to add good lives, worse to add bad lives, and equally good to add neutral lives, where a life's value is understood as personal value. These conclusions rule out a number of theories of population ethics, feed into an argument for the repugnant conclusion, and allow us to reduce different-number comparisons to same-number ones. Challenges to these (...)
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  • Mereological Dominance and Simpson’s Paradox.Tung-Ying Wu - 2020 - Philosophia: Philosophical Quarterly of Israel 48 (1):391–404.
    Numerous papers have investigated the transitivity principle of ‘better-than.’ A recent argument appeals to the principle of mereological dominance for transitivity. However, writers have not treated mereological dominance in much detail. This paper sets out to evaluate the generality of mereological dominance and its effectiveness in supporting the transitivity principle. I found that the mereological dominance principle is vulnerable to a counterexample based on Simpson’s Paradox. The thesis concludes that the mereological dominance principle should be revised in certain ways.
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  • ‘All-Things-Considered,’ ‘Better-Than,’ And Sports Rankings.S. Seth Bordner - 2016 - Journal of the Philosophy of Sport 43 (2):215-232.
    Comparative judgments abound in sports. Fans and pundits bandy about which of two players or teams is bigger, faster, stronger, more talented, less injury prone, more reliable, safer to bet on, riskier to trade for, and so on. Arguably, of most interest are judgments of a coarser type: which of two players or teams is, all-things-considered, just plain better? Conventionally, it is accepted that such comparisons can be appropriately captured and expressed by sports rankings. Rankings play an important role in (...)
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  • Infinite options, intransitive value, and supererogation.Daniel Muñoz - 2020 - Philosophical Studies 178 (6):2063-2075.
    Supererogatory acts are those that lie “beyond the call of duty.” There are two standard ways to define this idea more precisely. Although the definitions are often seen as equivalent, I argue that they can diverge when options are infinite, or when there are cycles of better options; moreover, each definition is acceptable in only one case. I consider two ways out of this dilemma.
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  • Heuristics and Biases in a Purported Counter-Example to the Acyclicity of "Better Than".Alex Voorhoeve - 2008 - Politics, Philosophy and Economics 7 (3):285-299.
    Stuart Rachels and Larry Temkin have offered a purported counter-example to the acyclicity of the relationship 'all things considered better than'. This example invokes our intuitive preferences over pairs of alternatives involving a single person's painful experiences of varying intensity and duration. These preferences, Rachels and Temkin claim, are confidently held, entirely reasonable, and cyclical. They conclude that we should drop acyclicity as a requirement of rationality. I argue that, together with the findings of recent research on the way people (...)
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  • The Multidimensional Structure of ‘better than’.Erich H. Rast - forthcoming - Axiomathes:1-29.
    According to the mixed lexicographic/additive account of ‘better than’ and similar aggregative value comparatives like ‘healthier than’, values are multidimensional and different aspects of a value are aggregated into an overall assessment in a lexicographic way, based on an ordering of value aspects. It is argued that this theory can account for an acceptable definition of Chang’s notion of parity and that it also offers a solution to Temkin’s and Rachels’s Spectrum Cases without giving up the transitivity of overall betterness. (...)
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  • Incommensurability and Vagueness in Spectrum Arguments: Options for Saving Transitivity of Betterness.Toby Handfield & Wlodek Rabinowicz - 2018 - Philosophical Studies 175 (9):2373-2387.
    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 (...)
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  • Why We Ought to Accept the Repugnant Conclusion.Torbjörn Tännsjö - 2002 - Utilitas 14 (3):339.
    Derek Parfit has famously pointed out that ‘total’ utilitarian views, such as classical hedonistic utilitarianism, lead to the conclusion that, to each population of quite happy persons there corresponds a more extensive population with people living lives just worth living, which is better. In particular, for any possible population of at least ten billion people, all with a very high quality of life, there must be some much larger imaginable population whose existence, if other things are equal, would be better, (...)
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  • Repugnance or Intransitivity: A Repugnant But Forced Choice.Stuart Rachels - 2004 - In Jesper Ryberg Torbjorn Tannsjo (ed.), The Repugnant Conclusion: Essays on Population Ethics. Kluwer Academic Publishers. pp. 163--86.
    A set of arguments shows that either the Repugnant Conclusion and its variants are true or the better-than relation isn't transitive. Which is it? This is the most important question in population ethics. The answer will point the way to Parfit's elusive Theory X.
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  • Why There Cannot Be Transitivity With Respect to Supervenient Properties.Ingmar Persson - 2006 - In Björn Haglund & Helge Malmgren (eds.), Kvantifikator För En Dag. Essays Dedicated to Dag Westerståhl on His Sixtieth Birthday.
    This paper presents an argument to the effect that the relation of exact similarity with respect to properties that are supervenient cannot be transitive. The point of departure is that, while a difference in respect of supervenient properties entails a difference in respect of subvenient properties, exact similiarity in respect of supervenient properties is compatible with differences in respect of subvenient properties. It is logically possible that two such sets of differences that each individually is insufficient for a difference as (...)
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  • Welfarism.Ben Bramble - forthcoming - In Hugh LaFollette (ed.), The International Encyclopedia of Ethics, 2nd print edition.
    Welfarism is a theory of value (or the good) simpliciter. Theories of value are fundamentally concerned with explaining what makes some possible worlds better than others. Welfarism is the view according to which the relative value of possible worlds is fully determined by how individuals are faring—or, in other words, by the facts about well-being that obtain—in these worlds. This entry begins by distinguishing between various forms of welfarism (pure vs. impure welfarism, and then narrow vs. wide welfarism). It then (...)
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  • All-Things-Considered,’ ‘Better-Than,’ And Sports Rankings‘.S. Seth Bordner - 2016 - ‘All-Things-Considered,’ ‘Better-Than,’ and Sports Rankings:1-18.
    Comparative judgments abound in sports. Fans and pundits bandy about which of two players or teams is bigger, faster, stronger, more talented, less injury prone, more reliable, safer to bet on, riskier to trade for, and so on. Arguably, of most interest are judgments of a coarser type: which of two players or teams is, all-things-considered, just plain better? Conventionally, it is accepted that such comparisons can be appropriately captured and expressed by sports rankings. Rankings play an important role in (...)
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  • How to Accept the Transitivity of Better Than.Justin Klocksiem - 2016 - Philosophical Studies 173 (5):1309-1334.
    Although the thesis that the moral better than relation is transitive seems obviously true, there is a growing literature according to which Parfit’s repugnant conclusion and related puzzles reveal that this thesis is false or problematic. This paper begins by presenting several such puzzles and explaining how they can be used in arguments for the intransitivity of better than. It then proposes and defends a plausible alternative picture of the behavior of better than that both resolves the repugnant conclusion and (...)
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