Compromise Between Incommensurable Ethical Values

Martijn Boot*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterAcademicpeer-review

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In the chapter I discuss compromises in ethical conflict and disagreement with respect to public decisions between conflicting incommensurable valuable alternatives. I argue that in some cases incommensurability prevents a principled compromise, which is defined as a rational way to achieve a trade-off or balance between conflicting values. Incommensurable values, which are usually at stake in the pursuit of a compromise, lack an equivalence relation, which prevents a determinate trade-off or balance between them. This is especially problematic with respect to the pursuit of compromises in ethical conflicts, including conflicts of justice, where we need a rational and ethical justification for the final decision. I will show how a deliberative democratic procedure can make the final decision legitimate but that, in the relevant cases, it cannot avoid an ethical deficit.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCompromises in Democracy
EditorsSandrine Baume, Stéphanie Novak
PublisherPalgrave MacMillan
Number of pages27
ISBN (Electronic)978-3-030-40802-2
ISBN (Print)978-3-030-40801-5
Publication statusPublished - 2020

Publication series

NamePalgrave Studies in Compromise after Conflict
PublisherPalgrave MacMillan


  • compromise
  • ethical conflict
  • incommensurability

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