Does Participation Matter? An Inconsistency in Parfit's Moral Mathematics

Utilitas 15 (01):92- (2003)
Abstract
Consequentialists typically think that the moral quality of one's conduct depends on the difference one makes. But consequentialists may also think that even if one is not making a difference, the moral quality of one's conduct can still be affected by whether one is participating (even if only ineffectually, or redundantly) in an endeavour that does make a difference. Derek Parfit discusses this issue participation in the chapter of Reasons and Persons that he devotes to what he calls . In my paper, I expose an inconsistency in Parfit's discussion of moral mathematics by showing how it gives conflicting answers to the question of whether participation matters. I conclude by showing how an appreciation of Parfit's error sheds some light on consequentialist thought generally, and on the debate between act- and rule-consequentialists specifically
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Deborah C. Smith (2001). Parfit on Personal Identity. Idealistic Studies 31 (2/3):169-181.
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