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Pluralism, Intransitivity, Incoherence

William A. Edmundson

Georgia State University College of Law


Georgia State University College of Law, Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2008-03

Pluralism is an appealing and now orthodox view of the sources of value. But pluralism has led to well-known difficulties for social-choice theory. Moreover, as Susan Hurley has argued, the difficulties of pluralism go even deeper. In 1954, Kenneth May suggested an intrapersonal analogue to Arrow's Impossibility Theorem. In brief, May showed that an individual's response to a plurality of values will, given certain additional assumptions, lead to intransitive preference orderings. (Daniel Kahneman and others have shown that intransitivity is an empirical feature of preferences.) Hurley challenged May's additional assumptions as implausibly strong; but her work did not exclude the possibility that values may disobey the canon of rationality that insists on transitivity. John Broome has recently extended these canons to the "betterness" relation. This chapter argues that there is no good reason to be confident that values, understood as real features of the world, behave consistently with those canons.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 37

Keywords: value pluralism, pluralism, intransitivity, transitivity, rationality

JEL Classification: A13, B4

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Date posted: June 12, 2008 ; Last revised: October 27, 2008

Suggested Citation

Edmundson, William A., Pluralism, Intransitivity, Incoherence (2008). ; Georgia State University College of Law, Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2008-03. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1143541

Contact Information

William A. Edmundson (Contact Author)
Georgia State University College of Law ( email )
P.O. Box 4037
Urban Life Building, Room 402 140 Decatur Street
Atlanta, GA 30302-4037
United States
404-413-9167 (Phone)
404-413-9225 (Fax)
HOME PAGE: http://law.gsu.edu/wedmundson/
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