Université de Montréal
2910 Boulevard Edouard-Montpetit, Montréal, QC H3T 1J7
Le CRÉ est heureux d’accueillir Chrisoula Andreou, chercheure associée à l’axe Éthique fondamentale, qui offrira une présentation intitulée « Better Than ».
It is commonly held that rational preferences must be acyclic. There have, however, been cases that have been put forward as counter-examples to this view. My presentation focuses on the following question: If the counterexamples are compelling and it is sometimes rationally permissible to have cyclic preferences, what should we conclude about the (presumed) transitivity of “better than ”? It might seem like one must choose between the following two responses:
Response 1: Insofar as “X is rationally preferred to Y” is intransitive (as it is if it is sometimes rationally permissible to have cyclic preferences), so is “X is better than Y.”
Response 2: We cannot make sense of “better than” except insofar as we understand it as a transitive relation, and so we must conclude that, if rational preferences can be cyclic, “X is better than Y” cannot possibly amount to “X is rationally preferred to Y.”
My aim is to develop an alternative response. According to my view, we should understand “better than” as transitive, but not because ways of understanding “better than” that make the relation intransitive can be dismissed as not making sense; I simply think there is a more compelling way of understanding the notion according to which the relation is transitive, even given the possibility of rationally cyclic preferences. I will then extend my results to the notion of “morally better than” in light of the possibility that “X is morally preferable to Y” might be intransitive.