Rutgers University Professor of Philosophy Larry Temkin discusses his original and deeply unsettling works of sceptical philosophy that mounts an important new challenge to contemporary ethics.
A conversation with Larry Temkin about his book Rethinking the Good: Moral Ideas and the Nature of Practical Reasoning.
Moderated by LI's Deputy Director of Economics Dalibor Rohac.
In choosing between moral alternatives—choosing between various forms of ethical action—we typically make calculations of the following kind: A is better than B; B is better than C; therefore A is better than C. These inferences use the principle of transitivity and are fundamental to many forms of practical and theoretical theorizing, not just in moral and ethical theory but in economics. Indeed they are so common as to be almost invisible. If we want to continue making plausible judgements, we cannot continue to make these assumptions.
Temkin shows that we are committed to various moral ideals that are, surprisingly, fundamentally incompatible with the idea that "better than" can be transitive. His book develops many examples where value judgments that we accept and find attractive, are incompatible with transitivity.
Larry Temkin is Professor of Philosophy at Rutgers University, specialising in ethics and political philosophy. He graduated number one with a B.A. Honours Degree from the University of Wisconsin/Madison (1975), and earned his Ph.D. in Philosophy from Princeton (1983). He has received fellowships from the Danforth Foundation, the Andrew Mellon Foundation, the National Humanities Center, Harvard University's Center for Ethics, All Souls College, Oxford University, and the National Institutes of Health.
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