P&P & preferences & Blake

MIKE OSSIPOFF nkklrp at hotmail.com
Wed Jan 30 22:39:27 PST 2002

Blake said:

But you must recognize there's a difference between saying "Mike prefers
chocolate to vanilla" and saying that P&P will be considering a
preference order in which chocolate is higher than vanilla.

I think it is obvious what P&P mean, and I don't think they have to
state the obvious.

I reply:

Here's what they said: "Given the profile of individual preferences..."

Sorry, but the expression "individual preferences" means ways that
individuals prefer things to other things. Of course it means whatever
the speaker wants it to mean, but its standard, accepted meaning
is what I said it is.

You & Markus informed me that when they say "preferences", they
mean something more abstract: Orderings of the candidates, without
saying or caring where those preferences are. They could be in
voters' minds, or they could be marked, sincerely or insincerely
on ballots, but P&P say nothing about that. They're just abstract

So, you pointed out, they're just saying that the input to the
choice function is a set of candidate-orderings.

Fine. Then they could call them candidate-orderings. But instead
they call them "preferences", a word whose meaning is different
from what you say that they mean by it.

Now that you've told me what they mean, that's fine.

By the way, though, I guess they're assuming that the choice function
won't be CR, if they're saying that the input to the choice function
is a set of candidate-orderings. Or are you now going to change
the definition of preferences again so that it accomodates CR?
Sorry, but I prefer a criterion that applies to all methods, or at
least to all proposable methods, or at the very least to all used
or proposed methods.

Blake had said:

>For you,
>>preference order implies sincere preferences, and you recognize that a
>>real-world method can only work on cast votes. But for P&P, a method is
>>just a function from a hypothetical set of preference orders to a set of

I replied:

>Ok, thanks for clarifying that. If an oracle knew the preferences,
>or if sincere or insincere preferences were recorded on a ballot,
>either of those would do for what P&P mean by preferences. I just
>meant that P&P should have been a lot clearer about that.

Perhaps they weren't writing with you in mind.

I reply:

Clearly saying what one means isn't just something that someone
should do when they're writing for me. If they want what they're
saying to mean anything to anyone outside their own little culture,
then it would be good to use words according to their accepted
meaning in English, rather than with a meaning that's used only
in that culture. Or maybe, as you may be suggesting, they don't
care if anyone else knows what they're saying. Of course I can't
complain about that. It's none of my business what made-up word
meanings some group wants to use when communicating with eachother,
or if they don't want to be understood by others.

But academics' ineptness at saying what they mean is worth
mentioning, because there are people on this list who quote them
a lot, and there are people on this list
who regard them as some sort of high authority. For that reason
it's sometimes necessary to discuss what they've said, and, though
they aren't writing just for me, it would be more convenient if they
were better at saying what they mean.

But they're not, and there's no point making a longterm issue of it.
I just wanted to mention it.

I believe that we've both stated our positions on that question,
and there seems nothing else to say about it. Surely there are other
issues more worthy.

Mike Ossipoff

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