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The Costs of Transitivity: Thoughts on Larry Temkin’s Rethinking the Good

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In Rethinking the Good, Larry Temkin argues that the common belief in the transitivity of better than (all things considered) is incompatible with various other value judgments to which many of us are deeply committed; accordingly, we should take seriously the possibility that the better than relation is not, in fact, a transitive one. However, although Temkin is right, I think, about the mutual incompatibility of the beliefs in question, for the most part his examples don’t leave me inclined to deny transitivity. Nonetheless, there is one example, involving infinity, that does seem to me particularly troubling.

Affiliations: 1: Yale University,


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