Synthese 199 (3-4):10793-10825 (2021)

Simon Knutsson
Stockholm University
Some find it plausible that a sufficiently long duration of torture is worse than any duration of mild headaches. Similarly, it has been claimed that a million humans living great lives is better than any number of worm-like creatures feeling a few seconds of pleasure each. Some have related bad things to good things along the same lines. For example, one may hold that a future in which a sufficient number of beings experience a lifetime of torture is bad, regardless of what else that future contains, while minor bad things, such as slight unpleasantness, can always be counterbalanced by enough good things. Among the most common objections to such ideas are sequence arguments. But sequence arguments are usually formulated in classical logic. One might therefore wonder if they work if we instead adopt many-valued logic. I show that, in a common many-valued logical framework, the answer depends on which versions of transitivity are used as premises. We get valid sequence arguments if we grant any of several strong forms of transitivity of 'is at least as bad as' and a notion of completeness. Other, weaker forms of transitivity lead to invalid sequence arguments. The plausibility of the premises is largely set aside here, but I tentatively note that almost all of the forms of transitivity that lead to valid sequence arguments seem intuitively problematic. Still, a few moderately strong forms of transitivity that might be acceptable lead to valid sequence arguments, although weaker statements of the initial value claims avoid these arguments at least to some extent.
Keywords Axiology  Superiority  Inferiority  Spectrum argument  Continuum argument  Non-Archimedean
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DOI 10.1007/s11229-021-03268-4
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