Published online by Cambridge University Press: 15 June 2005
Suppose one sets up a sequence of less and less valuable objects such that each object in the sequence is only marginally worse than its immediate predecessor. Could one in this way arrive at something that is dramatically inferior to the point of departure? It has been claimed that if there is a radical value difference between the objects at each end of the sequence, then at some point there must be a corresponding radical difference between the adjacent elements. The underlying picture seems to be that a radical gap cannot be scaled by a series of steps, if none of the steps itself is radical. We show that this picture is incorrect on a stronger interpretation of value superiority, but correct on a weaker one. Thus, the conclusion we reach is that, in some sense at least, abrupt breaks in such decreasing sequences cannot be avoided, but that such unavoidable breaks are less drastic than has been suggested. In an appendix written by John Broome and Wlodek Rabinowicz, the distinction between two kinds of value superiority is extended from objects to their attributes.