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Trade-offs, Transitivity, and Temkin

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image of Journal of Moral Philosophy

In this essay I critically assess Larry S. Temkin’s new book, Rethinking the Good: Moral Ideals and the Nature of Practical Reasoning. While I find that there is much to praise about this work, I focus on two points of critique. Generally, Temkin’s aims in this book are to expose a radical tension in our beliefs about value, and to show that one potentially palatable (if not ultimately acceptable) option is to reject the transitivity of the predicate “better than”. However, I argue that in both his motivation for claiming that such a tension exists, and one of his arguments that transitivity is a palatable option, his discussion is missing a crucial step: a first-order discussion of the relationship between intrinsic values; both personal welfare goods and impersonal goods (such as equality, overall utility, etc.).

Affiliations: 1: University of Kansas,


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