The Case for Comparability

Noûs 57 (2):414-453 (2023)
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Abstract

We argue that all comparative expressions in natural language obey a principle that we call Comparability: if x and y are at least as F as themselves, then either x is at least as F as y or y is at least as F as x. This principle has been widely rejected among philosophers, especially by ethicists, and its falsity has been claimed to have important normative implications. We argue that Comparability is needed to explain the goodness of several patterns of inference that seem manifestly valid, that the purported failures of Comparability would have absurd consequences, and that the influential arguments against Comparability are less compelling than they may have initially seemed.

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Author Profiles

Cian Dorr
New York University
Jake Nebel
Princeton University
Jake Zuehl
New York University

Citations of this work

Degrees of Consciousness.Andrew Y. Lee - 2023 - Noûs 57 (3):553-575.
Totalism without Repugnance.Jacob M. Nebel - 2022 - In Jeff McMahan, Tim Campbell, James Goodrich & Ketan Ramakrishnan (eds.), Ethics and Existence: The Legacy of Derek Parfit. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 200-231.
The Sum of Well-Being.Jacob M. Nebel - 2023 - Mind 132 (528):1074–1104.
Multidimensional Adjectives.Justin D’Ambrosio & Brian Hedden - forthcoming - Australasian Journal of Philosophy.

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References found in this work

Reasons and Persons.Derek Parfit - 1984 - Oxford, GB: Oxford University Press.
Convention: A Philosophical Study.David Kellogg Lewis - 1969 - Cambridge, MA, USA: Wiley-Blackwell.
The Foundations of Statistics.Leonard J. Savage - 1954 - Wiley Publications in Statistics.
The Philosophy of Philosophy.Timothy Williamson - 2007 - Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell.
The idea of justice.Amartya Sen - 2009 - Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.

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