The Distribution of Numbers and the Comprehensiveness of Reason

Abstract
In this paper, I concentrate on two themes: to what extent numbers bear on an agent's duties, and how numbers should relate to social policy. In the first half of the paper I consider the abstract case of a choice between saving two people and saving one, and my focus is on the contrast between a duty to act and a reason which merely makes an action intelligible. In the second half, I turn to the issue of social policy and investigate how if at all numbers can have a bearing there, if there is no obvious duty on individuals to save the greater number. My proposal is that it is not the bare numbers themselves (or even the ratio of claimants on either side of the dilemma) which explain our intuitions in such cases, but rather considerations of the extent to which each of us can make a reasonable claim on others. In short, I argue: numbers don't count, people do
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