Propping Up the Collapsing Principle

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


According to a standard account of incomparability, two value bearers are incomparable if it is false that there holds a positive value relation between them. Due to the vagueness of the comparative predicates it may also be indeterminate as to which relation that holds - for each relation it is neither true nor false that it holds. John Broome has argued that indeterminacy cannot coexist with incomparability and since there seems to exist indeterminacy there cannot exist incomparability. At the core of his argument lies the collapsing principle. There are several arguments against this principle; Erik Carlson has advanced most of these. In this paper two strategies in dealing with these arguments are discussed. One strategy is to deny the existence of a certain kind of properties; another strategy that has been advanced by Christian Constantinescu is to restrict the collapsing principle. In the paper it is argued that the first of these strategies is the most promising strategy. A novel argument in favour of this strategy is presented and several objections to the strategy are rebutted. Finally it is concluded that, even though this strategy deals with most objections, without a better argument in favour of the principle the debate seems to run into a stalemate.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Philosophy
  • Ethics


  • The collapsing principle, Incomparability, Indeterminacy, Vagueness, Value comparison, John Broome, Erik Carlson, Cristian Constantinescu, Johan F. Gustafsson
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)475-486
JournalEthical Theory and Moral Practice
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2015
Publication categoryResearch