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Incomparable risks, values and preferences
KTH, School of Architecture and the Built Environment (ABE), Philosophy and History of Technology.
2006 (English)Licentiate thesis, comprehensive summary (Other scientific)
Abstract [en]

Abstract. Consistent valuation and societal prioritization of risks presupposes comparability among risks, that is, in order to rank risks in order of severity, and allocate risk preventative resources accordingly, we must be able to determine whether one risk is better or worse than another, and by how much. It is often claimed, however, that some risks are not amenable to this kind of comparison because they are incommensurable, which roughly means that they are not comparable with respect to a common cardinal measure (e.g. money). The aim of this thesis is to i) consider what it means to say that two risks are incommensurable, ii) explore if incomparability - comparison failure with respect to a common ordinal scale - ever occurs, and how to model it if it does.

Essay I is a critical examination of the most prominent argument for incomparability, the so-called small improvement argument (SIA). It is argued that the argument fails because it conflates incomparability and a kind of evaluative indeterminacy.

Essay II outlines so-called margin of error principles for comparative value judgements. They are based on the idea that if a proposition concerning the value relation between two value-bearing options is true, but there are sufficiently similar cases in which it is false, it is not available to be known. The usefulness of these principles is demonstrated by utilizing them in an epistemological case against SIA.

Essay III presents a novel account of incomplete preference orderings which acknowledges that incomparability can vary in degrees. This is achieved by means of a probabilistic analysis of preferences.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: KTH , 2006. , x, 40 p.
Series
Theses in philosophy from the Royal Institute of Technology, ISSN 1654-627X
National Category
Philosophy
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-4214ISBN: 978-91-7178-509-1 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:kth-4214DiVA: diva2:11276
Presentation
2006-12-20, Seminarierummet, KTH, Teknikringen 78 B, 2 tr, Stockholm, 10:00
Opponent
Supervisors
Note
QC 20101112Available from: 2006-12-07 Created: 2006-12-07 Last updated: 2010-11-12Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. The small improvement argument
Open this publication in new window or tab >>The small improvement argument
2008 (English)In: Synthese, ISSN 0039-7857, E-ISSN 1573-0964, Vol. 65, no 1, 127-139 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

 It is commonly assumed that moral deliberation requires that the alternatives available in a choice situation are evaluatively comparable. This comparability assumption is threatened by claims of incomparability, which is often established by means of the small improvement argument (SIA). In this paper I argue that SIA does not establish incomparability in a stricter sense. The reason is that it fails to distinguish incomparability from a kind of evaluative indeterminacy which may arise due to the vagueness of the evaluative comparatives 'better than,' 'worse than,' and 'equally as good as'.

Keyword
value relations, incomparability, small improvement argument, vagueness
National Category
Philosophy
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-6536 (URN)10.1007/s11229-007-9243-0 (DOI)000259444100007 ()
Note
QC 20101112. Uppdaterad från Submitted till Published (20101112).Available from: 2006-12-07 Created: 2006-12-07 Last updated: 2010-11-12Bibliographically approved
2. Margins of error in value comparisons: a critique of the small improvement argument
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Margins of error in value comparisons: a critique of the small improvement argument
2007 (English)In: Meeting Abstracts;  81st Annual Meeting April 3 - 8, 2007, San Francisco  , 2007Conference paper, Published paper (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

In this paper margin of error principles for comparative value judgements are outlined. They are based on the idea that if a proposition concerning the value relation between two value bearing options is true, but there are sufficiently similar cases in which it is false, it is not available to be known. To demonstrate the usefulness of the principles, they are applied in building an epistemological case against the so-called small-improvement argument (SIA), which is often considered the strongest case for value incomparability. If we acknowledge margins for error in comparative value judgement, it follows that some of the crucial steps in SIA are epistemically unwarranted.

National Category
Philosophy
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-6537 (URN)
Conference
American Philosophical Association, 81st Annual Meeting, April 3 - 8, 2007, San Francisco
Note
QC 20101112Available from: 2006-12-07 Created: 2006-12-07 Last updated: 2010-11-12Bibliographically approved
3. Human choice behaviour: a probabilistic analysis of incomparability
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Human choice behaviour: a probabilistic analysis of incomparability
(English)Article in journal (Other academic) Submitted
National Category
Philosophy
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-6538 (URN)
Note
QS 20120326Available from: 2006-12-07 Created: 2006-12-07 Last updated: 2012-03-26Bibliographically approved

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CiteExportLink to record
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Citation style
  • apa
  • harvard1
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Output format
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