Vagueness in Action Public Deposited

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  • March 19, 2019
  • Elson, Luke
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Philosophy
  • In the papers which compose this dissertation, I defend a distinctive role for evaluative vagueness: (i) I argue that value incommensurability is best understood as vagueness; (ii) I defend an expectation-maximising account of rational action under indeterminacy; and (iii) I argue that Warren Quinn's notorious <italic>Puzzle of the Self-Torturer</italic> is an instance the Paradox of the Sorites. I argue that when two options are incommensurate (or incomparable) with respect to some value, it is---depending on one's account of vagueness---either unknown or indeterminate which option is better. I criticise Ruth Chang's 'Chaining Argument' for her parity view of incommensurability, and I argue that John Broome's 'collapsing principle' leads to contradictions. Ignorance doesn't present such a distinctive challenge, but how can we choose under <italic>indeterminacy</italic>? I develop an account of rational choice in such situations. I vindicate the intuition that in some cases of incommensurability, it is permissible to simply flip a coin. I also argue that---as in some other expectation-maximising contexts---sometimes we ought to choose what is not the best: sometimes, under indeterminacy, we ought choose such that there is determinately a better option. Finally, I argue that Warren Quinn's Puzzle of the Self-Torturer is a disguised instance of incommensurability and does not, as many have argued, undermine orthodox rational choice theory. Self-Torture can be accounted for in the same manner as other kinds of choice under incommensurability/indeterminacy.
Date of publication
Resource type
Rights statement
  • In Copyright
  • Sinnott-Armstrong, Walter
  • Simmons, Keith
  • Neta, Ram
  • Blackburn, Simon
  • Sayre-McCord, Geoffrey
  • Doctor of Philosophy
Degree granting institution
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Graduate School
Graduation year
  • 2014
Place of publication
  • Chapel Hill, NC
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