Coherence in Political Decisions between Incomparable Items


  • Leandro Martins Zanitelli Ritter dos Reis Universitary Center (UniRitter)



Coherence, Incomparability, Incommensurability, Raz, Chang


This paper raises doubt about the intuitive appeal of coherence in political decisions involving incomparable alternatives. Suppose that a legislature has to first decide between incomparable alternatives A and B and successively between incomparable alternatives C and D. C and D are, respectively, essentially like to A and B. It is intuitive that, no matter what alternative, A or B, is chosen in the first case, decision between C and D should be coherent, so that, if alternative A is chosen over B, C, which is essentially like A, ought to be chosen over D. However, by scrutinizing arguments by Joseph Raz and Ruth Chang, the paper shows that the attractiveness of coherence in cases of incomparability is hard to justify.

Author Biography

Leandro Martins Zanitelli, Ritter dos Reis Universitary Center (UniRitter)

Faculty of Law, Graduation and Postgraduation (Professor and Coordinator)


Baker T, Harel A, Kugler, T, 2004. The virtues of uncertainty in law: an experimental approach. Iowa Law Review, 89: 443-494.

Boot M, 2009. Parity, incomparability and rationally justified choice. Philosophical Studies, 146: 75-92.

Chang R, 1997. Introduction. In Incommensurability, Incomparability, and Practical Reason. Edited by Chang R. Cambridge and London: Harvard University Press, 1-34.

Chang R, 2002. The possibility of parity. Ethics, 112: 659-688.

Chang R, 2005. Parity, interval value, and choice. Ethics, 115: 331-350.

Chang R, 2009. Reflections on the reasonable and the rational in conflict resolution. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society Supplementary Volume, 83: 133-160.

Grimm SR, 2007. Easy cases and value incommensurability. Ratio, 20: 26-44.

Korobkin RB, 2000. Behavioral analysis and legal form: rules vs. standards revisited. Oregon Law Review, 79: 23-60.

Marmor A, 2005. Should like cases be treated alike?’ Legal Theory, 11: 27-38.

Raz J, 1986. The Morality of Freedom. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Raz J, 1992. The relevance of coherence. Boston University Law Review, 72: 273-321.