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The Problem of the Second Best: Conceptual Issues

  • Juha Räikkä (a1)
  • DOI:
  • Published online: 01 January 2009

In this article I shall undertake a preliminary exploration of the notion of second best. I shall follow a three-step strategy. First, I shall introduce some applications of the theorem of the second best in different fields of philosophy and social sciences. Secondly, I shall make several conceptual distinctions related to the theorem. I aim to show that there are certain theoretical results that are similar but not identical to the theorem of the second best, and that the notion of second best is often used quite loosely. Finally, I shall try to shed some light on the question of how the theorem is description-sensitive. The overall aim of the paper is to pay attention to the generality of the problem of the second best and stress the importance of the theorem in political theory in particular.

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Warren J. Samuels and A. Allan Schmid (ed.), Law and Economics: An Institutional Perspective The Hague, 1981

Nicholas Mercudo (ed.), Law and Economics, Dordrecht, 1989

Bruce Talbot Coram , ‘Second Best Theories and the Implications for Institutional Design’, The Theory of Institutional Design, ed. R. Goodin , New York, 1996

Holly S. Goldman , ‘Doing the Best One Can’, Values and Morals, ed. A. I. Goldman and J. Kim , Dordrecht, 1978

Ralph L. Keeney and Howard Raiffa , Decisions with Multiple Objectives: Preferences and Value Tradeoffs, Cambridge, 1993

Paul R. Kleindorfer , Howard C. Kunreuther and Paul J. H. Schoemaker , Decision Sciences: An Integrative Perspective, Cambridge, 1993

Charles E. Larmore , Patterns of Moral Complexity, Cambridge, 1987, esp. ch. 6

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  • ISSN: 0953-8208
  • EISSN: 1741-6183
  • URL: /core/journals/utilitas
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