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Hard cases of comparison


Messerli, Michael; Reuter, Kevin (2017). Hard cases of comparison. Philosophical Studies, 174(9):2227-2250.

Abstract

In hard cases of comparison, people are faced with two options neither of which is conceived of as better, worse, or equally good compared to the other. Most philosophers claim that hard cases (1) can indeed be distinguished from cases in which two options are equally good, and (2) can be characterized by a failure of transitive reasoning. It is a much more controversial matter and at the heart of an ongoing debate, whether the options in hard cases of comparison should be interpreted as incomparable, on par, or roughly equal. So far, however, none of these claims and interpretations have been tested. This paper presents the first empirical investigation on hard cases, intransitive reasoning, and incomparability. Our results reveal that hard cases present real-world dilemmas in which a significant majority of people violate transitivity. After suggesting a way of operationalizing the notion of incomparability, we provide empirical evidence that the options in some hard cases are not considered to be incomparable. Theories of rough equality or parity seem to provide better interpretations of our results.

Abstract

In hard cases of comparison, people are faced with two options neither of which is conceived of as better, worse, or equally good compared to the other. Most philosophers claim that hard cases (1) can indeed be distinguished from cases in which two options are equally good, and (2) can be characterized by a failure of transitive reasoning. It is a much more controversial matter and at the heart of an ongoing debate, whether the options in hard cases of comparison should be interpreted as incomparable, on par, or roughly equal. So far, however, none of these claims and interpretations have been tested. This paper presents the first empirical investigation on hard cases, intransitive reasoning, and incomparability. Our results reveal that hard cases present real-world dilemmas in which a significant majority of people violate transitivity. After suggesting a way of operationalizing the notion of incomparability, we provide empirical evidence that the options in some hard cases are not considered to be incomparable. Theories of rough equality or parity seem to provide better interpretations of our results.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > Institute of Philosophy
Dewey Decimal Classification:100 Philosophy
Language:English
Date:1 September 2017
Deposited On:23 Oct 2019 13:32
Last Modified:23 Oct 2019 13:32
Publisher:Springer
ISSN:0031-8116
OA Status:Closed
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1007/s11098-016-0796-y
Project Information:
  • : FunderSNSF
  • : Grant ID100012_146627
  • : Project TitleUnvergleichbarkeit und Rationalität

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