Indeterminacy and the Small-Improvement Argument

Utilitas 25 (4):433-445 (2013)
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In this article, I argue that the small-improvement argument fails since some of the comparisons involved in the argument might be indeterminate. I defend this view from two objections by Ruth Chang, namely the argument from phenomenology and the argument from perplexity. There are some other objections to the small-improvement argument that also hinge on claims about indeterminacy. John Broome argues that alleged cases of value incomparability are merely examples of indeterminacy in the betterness relation. The main premise of his argument is the much-discussed collapsing principle. I offer a new counterexample to this principle and argue that Broome's defence of the principle is not cogent. On the other hand, Nicolas Espinoza argues that the small-improvement argument fails as a result of the mere possibility of evaluative indeterminacy. I argue that his objection is unsuccessful.



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Johan E. Gustafsson
University of Texas at Austin

Citations of this work

Consequences of Comparability.Cian Dorr, Jacob M. Nebel & Jake Zuehl - 2021 - Philosophical Perspectives 35 (1):70-98.
The Possibility of Undistinguishedness.Johan E. Gustafsson - 2023 - Philosophical Studies 180 (2):609-613.
On parity and the intuition of neutrality.Mozaffar Qizilbash - 2018 - Economics and Philosophy 34 (1):87-108.
Hard cases of comparison.Michael Messerli & Kevin Reuter - 2017 - Philosophical Studies 174 (9):2227-2250.

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References found in this work

The possibility of parity.Ruth Chang - 2002 - Ethics 112 (4):659-688.
Value Incomparability and Indeterminacy.Cristian Constantinescu - 2012 - Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 15 (1):57-70.
Incommensurability and vagueness.Wlodek Rabinowicz - 2009 - Aristotelian Society Supplementary Volume 83 (1):71-94.

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