Justice, Desert, and the Repugnant Conclusion

Utilitas 7 (2):189-206 (1995)
In Chapter 17 of his magnificent Reasons and Persons, Derek Parfit asks what he describes as an ‘awesome question’: ‘How many people should there ever be?’ For a utilitarian like me, the answer seems simple: there should be however many people it takes to make the world best. Unfortunately, if I answer Parfit's awesome question in this way, I may sink myself in a quagmire of axiological confusion. In this paper, I first describe certain aspects of the quagmire. Then I introduce and explain some of the elements of a novel axiological view – ‘justicism’. Justicism is derived from some ideas originally suggested by Franz Brentano. It was developed in an effort to solve certain other problems confronting utilitarianism – problems explicitly about justice. I think, however, that as a sort of happy by-product, justicism also generates a plausible answer to Parfit's awesome question. This may come as a bit of surprise, since justicism is a form of totalism, and it is widely thought that no totalistic theory can provide a satisfactory answer to Parfit's question. After presenting and explaining my proposed solution, I address some objections.
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DOI 10.1017/S095382080000203X
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Carl Knight (2011). Responsibility, Desert, and Justice. In Carl Knight & Zofia Stemplowska (eds.), Responsibility and Distributive Justice. Oxford University Press
Jesper Ryberg, Torbjörn Tännsjö & Gustaf Arrhenius (2006). The Repugnant Conclusion. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Online; Last Accessed October 4:2006.
Jesper Ryberg (2008). The Repugnant Conclusion. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

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