8:43 a.m., Nov. 10, 2009----Prof. Larry Temkin of Rutgers University delivered the University of Delaware Department of Philosophy's annual David Norton Memorial Lecture Saturday afternoon, Nov. 7, to a large audience in the Rodney Room of the Perkins Student Center.
The lecture was the culmination of a daylong Undergraduate Philosophy Conference, which organized by UD philosophy major and Honors Program student Tara Rhoades. Undergraduate philosophers from UD, Eastern University, Bryn Mawr College, Temple University, the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Maryland read papers at the conference.
Temkin's paper, “Rethinking the Good: Moral Ideals and the Nature of Practical Reasoning,” explained and argued for the possibility that the relation “is better than” is not transitive, in other words that A could be better than B, B better than C, and yet A not better than C.
Though this seems deeply counter-intuitive, and would have disturbing conceptual consequences, Temkin argued that it is one of a set of three intuitively plausible principles that together are inconsistent.
As an example, “moral permissibility” is not transitive since it is permissible to follow one's own self-interest rather than do something beyond the call of duty, permissible to go beyond the call of duty rather than merely do what duty requires, but not permissible to follow one's own self-interest rather than do what duty requires.
The conference and lecture were supported in part by the Norton Memorial Fund and the Class of 1955 Ethics Fund.