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  1. Numbers, Fairness and Charity.Adam Hosein - manuscript
    This paper discusses the "numbers problem," the problem of explaining why you should save more people rather than fewer when forced to choose. Existing non-consequentialist approaches to the problem appeal to fairness to explain why. I argue that this is a mistake and that we can give a more satisfying answer by appealing to requirements of charity or beneficence.
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  2. Consequentialism, time, and value.David Killoren - manuscript
    Is consequentialism consistent with common-sense morality? I argue for a negative answer to this question. In Sections 1-4, I develop and defend a definition for “consequentialism.” In Section 5, I attempt to show that, given this definition, consequentialism and common-sense morality cannot be reconciled. In Section 6, I argue that, on the definition of consequentialism I defend, consequentialism should be understood, not as a view about the relationship between the deontic and the evaluative (as many philosophers suppose), but as a (...)
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  3. Exceeding Expectations: Stochastic Dominance as a General Decision Theory.Christian Tarsney - manuscript
    The principle that rational agents should maximize expected utility or choiceworthiness is intuitively plausible in many ordinary cases of decision-making under uncertainty. But it is less plausible in cases of extreme, low-probability risk (like Pascal's Mugging), and intolerably paradoxical in cases like the St. Petersburg and Pasadena games. In this paper I show that, under certain conditions, stochastic dominance reasoning can capture most of the plausible implications of expectational reasoning while avoiding most of its pitfalls. Specifically, given sufficient background uncertainty (...)
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  4. Prudential Longtermism.Johan E. Gustafsson & Petra Kosonen - forthcoming - In Jacob Barrett, Hilary Greaves & David Thorstad (eds.), Essays on Longtermism. Oxford University Press.
    According to Longtermism, our acts’ expected influence on the expected value of the world is mainly determined by their effects in the far future. There is, given total utilitarianism, a straightforward argument for Longtermism due to the enormous number of people that might exist in the future, but this argument does not work on person-affecting views. In this paper, we will argue that these views might also lead to Longtermism if Prudential Longtermism is true. Prudential Longtermism holds for a person (...)
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  5. Multidimensional Concepts and Disparate Scale Types.Brian Hedden & Jacob M. Nebel - forthcoming - Philosophical Review.
    Multidimensional concepts are everywhere, and they are important. Examples include moral value, welfare, scientific confirmation, democracy, and biodiversity. How, if at all, can we aggregate the underlying dimensions of a multidimensional concept F to yield verdicts about which things are Fer than which overall? Social choice theory can be used to model and investigate this aggregation problem. Here, we focus on a particularly thorny problem made salient by this social choice-theoretic framework: the underlying dimensions of a given concept might be (...)
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  6. Each Counts for One.Daniel Muñoz - forthcoming - Philosophical Studies.
    After 50 years of debate, the ethics of aggregation has reached a curious stalemate, with both sides arguing that only their theory treats people as equals. I argue that, on the issue of equality, both sides are wrong. From the premise that “each counts for one,” we cannot derive the conclusion that “more count for more” or its negation. The familiar arguments from equality to aggregation presuppose more than equality: the Kamm/Scanlon “Balancing Argument” rests on what social choice theorists call (...)
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  7. The Rules of Rescue: Cost, Distance, and Effective Altruism, by Theron Pummer. [REVIEW]Daniel Muñoz - forthcoming - Mind.
  8. Longtermism in an infinite world.Christian Tarsney & Hayden Wilkinson - forthcoming - In Jacob Barrett, Hilary Greaves & David Thorstad (eds.), Essays on Longtermism. Oxford University Press.
    The case for longtermism depends on the vast potential scale of the future. But that same vastness also threatens to undermine the case for longtermism: If the universe as a whole, or the future in particular, contain infinite quantities of value and/or disvalue, then many of the theories of value that support longtermism (e.g., risk-neutral total utilitarianism) seem to imply that none of our available options are better than any other. If so, then even apparently vast effects on the far (...)
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  9. The Pursuit of Happiness: Philosophical and Psychological Foundations of Utility, Louis Narens and Brian Skyrms. Oxford University Press, 2020, 208 pages. [REVIEW]Krister Bykvist & Johan E. Gustafsson - 2024 - Economics and Philosophy 40 (1):233-239.
  10. Aggregating Personal Value.Christopher Fruge - 2024 - Oxford Studies in Metaethics 19.
    A person possesses value from various components of wellbeing, but they also have overall wellbeing from various instances of value taken together. Most ethicists assume that there is an objectively unique way that wellbeing from components aggregates into overall wellbeing. However, I argue that aggregation is subjective and varies depending on what sort of aggregation a person values. I end with some implications for the significance of death.
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  11. Do Lefty and Righty Matter More Than Lefty Alone?Johan E. Gustafsson & Petra Kosonen - 2024 - Erkenntnis 89 (5):1921-1926.
    Derek Parfit argues that fission is prudentially better for you than ordinary death. But is having more fission products with good lives prudentially better for you than having just one? In this paper, we argue that it is. We argue that, if your brain is split and the halves are transplanted into two recipients (who both have good lives), then it is prudentially better for you if both transplants succeed than if only one of them does (other things being equal). (...)
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  12. A New Puzzle for Limited Aggregation.Kacper Kowalczyk - 2024 - Analysis 84 (2):258-266.
    This paper presents a new puzzle for limited aggregation. Unlike other recent puzzles, this one arises independently of the issue of rational aversion to risk. Some possible responses are laid out and explored.
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  13. Ethics without numbers.Jacob M. Nebel - 2024 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 108 (2):289-319.
    This paper develops and explores a new framework for theorizing about the measurement and aggregation of well-being. It is a qualitative variation on the framework of social welfare functionals developed by Amartya Sen. In Sen’s framework, a social or overall betterness ordering is assigned to each profile of real-valued utility functions. In the qualitative framework developed here, numerical utilities are replaced by the properties they are supposed to represent. This makes it possible to characterize the measurability and interpersonal comparability of (...)
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  14. Would a Viable Consent App Create Headaches for Consequentialists?Scott Woodcock - 2024 - Philosophy 99 (1):73-98.
    Greater public awareness of the occurrence of sexual assault has led to the creation of mobile phone apps designed to facilitate consent between sexual partners. These apps exhibit serious practical shortcomings in realistic contexts; however, in this paper I consider the hypothetical case in which these practical shortcomings are absent. The prospect of this viable consent app creates an interesting challenge for consequentialism – one that is comparable to the objection that the theory justifies killing innocent persons to prevent large (...)
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  15. Numbers without aggregation.Tim Henning - 2023 - Noûs.
    Suppose we can save either a larger group of persons or a distinct, smaller group from some harm. Many people think that, all else equal, we ought to save the greater number. This article defends this view (with qualifications). But unlike earlier theories, it does not rely on the idea that several people's interests or claims receive greater aggregate weight. The argument starts from the idea that due to their stakes, the affected people have claims to have a say in (...)
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  16. How Do People Balance Death against Lesser Burdens?Veronika Luptakova & Alex Voorhoeve - 2023 - In Matthew Lindauer, James R. Beebe & Justin Sytsma (eds.), Advances in Experimental Political Philosophy. New York: Bloomsbury. pp. 123-158.
  17. The Sum of Well-Being.Jacob M. Nebel - 2023 - Mind 132 (528):1074–1104.
    Is well-being the kind of thing that can be summed across individuals? This paper takes a measurement-theoretic approach to answering this question. To make sense of adding well-being, we would need to identify some natural "concatenation" operation on the bearers of well-being that satisfies the axioms of extensive measurement and can therefore be represented by the arithmetic operation of addition. I explore various proposals along these lines, involving the concatenation of segments within lives over time, of entire lives led alongside (...)
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  18. Other People.Kieran Setiya - 2023 - In Sarah Buss & Nandi Theunissen (eds.), Rethinking the Value of Humanity. New York, US: OUP Usa.
    Argues for the role of personal acquaintance in both love and concern for individuals, as such. The challenge is to say what personal acquaintance is and why it matters in the way it does. These questions are addressed through the work of Emmanuel Levinas. Topics include: the ethics of aggregation, the basis of moral standing, and the value of human life.
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  19. A Holist Balance Scale.Chris Tucker - 2023 - Journal of the American Philosophical Association 9 (3):533-553.
    Scale-based models of weighing reasons face challenges concerning the context sensitivity of weight, the aggregation of weight, and the methodology for determining what the weights of reasons are. I resolve these challenges.
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  20. Superiority Discounting Implies the Preposterous Conclusion.Mitchell Barrington - 2022 - Utilitas 34 (4):493-501.
    Many population axiologies avoid the Repugnant Conclusion by endorsing Superiority: some number of great lives is better than any number of mediocre lives. But as Nebel shows, RC follows from the Intrapersonal Repugnant Conclusion: a guaranteed mediocre life is better than a sufficiently small probability of a great life. This result is concerning because IRC is plausible. Recently, Kosonen has argued that IRC can be true while RC is false if small probabilities are discounted to zero. This article details the (...)
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  21. Aggregation and Self-Sacrifice.Campbell Brown - 2022 - Ethics 132 (3):730-735.
    Should harms to different individuals be aggregated? Moderate views answer yes and no. Aggregation is appropriate in some but not all cases. Such views need to determine a threshold at which aggregation switches from appropriate to inappropriate. Alex Voorhoeve proposes a method for determining this threshold which links other-regarding and self-regarding ethics. This proposal, however, implies a spurious correlation between favoring aggregation and egoism.
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  22. Does longtermism depend on questionable forms of aggregation?Marina Moreno - 2022 - Intergenerational Justice Review 8 (1):13-23.
    We are constantly making choices about how to invest our time and resources. From a moral perspective, we must ask which moral concerns are most deserving of our attention. Longtermism, as e.g. defined by Greaves and MacAskill, holds that our moral focus should be on the long-term future, and that current and medium-term moral problems are comparatively insignificant. This theory is centrally based on the assumption that the moral importance of individuals can be aggregated. Since the number of individuals of (...)
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  23. The Many, the Few, and the Nature of Value.Daniel Muñoz - 2022 - Ergo: An Open Access Journal of Philosophy 9 (4):70-87.
    John Taurek argues that, in a choice between saving the many or the few, the numbers should not count. Some object that this view clashes with the transitivity of ‘better than’; others insist the clash can be avoided. I defend a middle ground: Taurek cannot have transitivity, but that doesn’t doom his view, given a suitable conception of value. I then formalize and explore two conceptions: one context-sensitive, one multidimensional.
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  24. Aggregation Without Interpersonal Comparisons of Well‐Being.Jacob M. Nebel - 2022 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 105 (1):18-41.
    This paper is about the role of interpersonal comparisons in Harsanyi's aggregation theorem. Harsanyi interpreted his theorem to show that a broadly utilitarian theory of distribution must be true even if there are no interpersonal comparisons of well-being. How is this possible? The orthodox view is that it is not. Some argue that the interpersonal comparability of well-being is hidden in Harsanyi's premises. Others argue that it is a surprising conclusion of Harsanyi's theorem, which is not presupposed by any one (...)
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  25. Sorites On What Matters.Theron Pummer - 2022 - In Jeff McMahan, Timothy Campbell, Ketan Ramakrishnan & Jimmy Goodrich (eds.), Ethics and Existence: The Legacy of Derek Parfit. New York, NY: Oxford University Press. pp. 498–523.
    Ethics in the tradition of Derek Parfit’s Reasons and Persons is riddled with sorites-like arguments, which lead us by what seem innocent steps to seemingly false conclusions. Take, for example, spectrum arguments for the Repugnant Conclusion that appeal to slight differences in quality of life. Several authors have taken the view that, since spectrum arguments are structurally analogous to sorites arguments, the correct response to spectrum arguments is structurally analogous to the correct response to sorites arguments. This sorites analogy is (...)
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  26. Saving the Many or the Few: The Moral Relevance of Numbers.Theron Pummer - 2022 - 1000-Word Philosophy 2022.
    To your left, three strangers are drowning. To your right, one other stranger is drowning. You can effortlessly save the three by throwing a lifebuoy to your left. Alternatively, you can save the one by throwing the lifebuoy to your right. You cannot save all four. What should you do? It’s wrong to do nothing, but is it wrong to save just the one stranger? Are you morally required to save the three? Many claim that, when those you can help (...)
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  27. Limits to Aggregation and Uncertain Rescues.Bastian Steuwer - 2022 - Utilitas 34 (1):70-83.
    Limited aggregation holds that we are only sometimes, not always, permitted to aggregate. Aggregation is permissible only when the harms and benefits are relevant to one another. But how should limited aggregation be extended to cases in which we are uncertain about what will happen? In this article, I provide a challenge to ex post limited aggregation. I reconstruct a precise version of ex post limited aggregation that relies on the notion of ex post claims. However, building a theory of (...)
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  28. Utilitarianism without Moral Aggregation.Johan E. Gustafsson - 2021 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy 51 (4):256-269.
    Is an outcome where many people are saved and one person dies better than an outcome where the one is saved and the many die? According to the standard utilitarian justification, the former is better because it has a greater sum total of well-being. This justification involves a controversial form of moral aggregation, because it is based on a comparison between aggregates of different people's well-being. Still, an alternative justification—the Argument for Best Outcomes—does not involve moral aggregation. I extend the (...)
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  29. Aggregation, Balancing, and Respect for the Claims of Individuals.Bastian Steuwer - 2021 - Utilitas 33 (1):17-34.
    Most non-consequentialists “let the numbers count” when one can save either a lesser or greater number from equal or similar harm. But they are wary of doing so when one can save either a small number from grave harm or instead a very large number from minor harm. Limited aggregation is an approach that reconciles these two commitments. It is motivated by a powerful idea: our decision whom to save should respect each person who has a claim to our help, (...)
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  30. Contractualism, Complaints, and Risk.Bastian Steuwer - 2021 - Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy 19 (2).
    How should contractualists assess the permissibility of risky actions? Both main views on the question, ex ante and ex post, fail to distinguish between different kinds of risk. In this article, I argue that this overlooks a third alternative that I call “objective ex ante contractualism”. Objective ex ante substitutes discounting complaints by epistemic risk in favor of discounting by objective risk. I further argue in favor of this new view. Objective ex ante contractualism provides the best model of justifiability (...)
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  31. An Opinionated Guide to “What Makes Someone’s Life Go Best”.Chris Heathwood - 2020 - In Andrea Sauchelli (ed.), Derek Parfit’s Reasons and Persons: An Introduction and Critical Inquiry. New York, NY: Routledge. pp. 94-113.
    Derek Parfit's monumental 1984 book Reasons and Persons contains a little appendix called "What Makes Someone's Life Go Best," a mini-essay on well-being that has taken on a life of its own apart from the body to which it is attached. This paper serves as a critical guide to that appendix. Topics include: the nature of pleasure and pain and its relation to theories of well-being; the unrestricted desire-fulfillment theory and the problem of remote desires; whether a person's actual preferences (...)
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  32. Ignorance, Beneficence, and Rights.Kieran Setiya - 2020 - Journal of Moral Philosophy 17 (1):56-74.
    I argue that ignorance of who will die makes a difference to the ethics of killing. It follows that reasons are subject to ‘specificity’: it can be rational to respond more strongly to facts that provide us with reasons than to the fact that such reasons exist. In the case of killing and letting die, these reasons are distinctively particular: they turn on personal acquaintance. The theory of rights must be, in part, a theory of this relation.
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  33. One-by-one: moral theory for separate persons.Bastian Steuwer - 2020 - Dissertation, London School of Economics
    You and I lead different lives. While we share a society and a world, our existence is separate from one another. You and I matter individually, by ourselves. My dissertation is about this simple thought. I argue that this simple insight, the separateness of persons, tells us something fundamental about morality. My dissertation seeks to answer how the separateness of persons matters. I develop a precise view of the demands of the separateness of persons. The separateness of persons imposes both (...)
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  34. Why It Does Not Matter What Matters: Relation R, Personal Identity, and Moral Theory.Bastian Steuwer - 2020 - Philosophical Quarterly 70 (278):178-198.
    Derek Parfit famously argued that personal identity is not what matters for prudential concern about the future. Instead, he argues what matters is Relation R, a combination of psychological connectedness and continuity with any cause. This revisionary conclusion, Parfit argued, has profound implications for moral theory. It should lead us, among other things, to deny the importance of the separateness of persons as an important fact of morality. Instead, we should adopt impersonal consequentialism. In this paper, I argue that Parfit (...)
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  35. Healthy Nails versus Long Lives: An Analysis of a Dutch Priority Setting Proposal.Alex Voorhoeve - 2020 - In Nir Eyal, Samia A. Hurst, Christopher J. L. Murray, S. Andrew Schroeder & Daniel Wikler (eds.), Measuring the Global Burden of Disease: Philosophical Dimensions. New York, USA: Oup Usa. pp. 273-292.
    How should governments balance saving people from very large individual disease burdens (such as an early death) against saving them from middling burdens (such as erectile dysfunction) and minor burdens (such as nail fungus)? This chapter considers this question through an analysis of a priority-setting proposal in the Netherlands, on which avoiding a multitude of middling burdens takes priority over saving one person from early death, but no number of very small burdens can take priority over avoiding one death. It (...)
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  36. Incomparable numbers.Kenneth Walden - 2020 - Oxford Studies in Normative Ethics 10.
    This chapter presents arguments for two slightly different versions of the thesis that the value of persons is incomparable. Both arguments allege an incompatibility between the demands of a certain kind of practical reasoning and the presuppositions of value comparisons. The significance of these claims is assessed in the context of the “Numbers problem”—the question of whether one morally ought to benefit one group of potential aid recipients rather than another simply because they are greater in number. It is argued (...)
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  37. Contratualismo ex post e ex ante: como evitar a agregação.Gustavo Oliva de Oliveira - 2019 - In Eduardo Alves, Gregory Gaboardi, Claiton Silva da Costa & David Fraga (eds.), XIX Semana Acadêmica do PPG em Filosofia da PUCRS - Volume 1. pp. 131-139.
    Contractualism has obtained relative success in moral theory for being able to deal with cases in which consequentialist theories of morality fail, specially those that involve problems with aggregation. Aggregation is, simply put, the ideia that we should measure the value of an action not by considering how it affects each individual, but by adding the good its consequences produce, looking for the best "balance" of good. Philosophers like John Rawls and T. M. Scanlon pointed out that aggregation seems to (...)
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  38. Axiological Absolutism and Risk.Seth Lazar & Chad Lee-Stronach - 2019 - Noûs 53 (1):97-113.
    Consider the following claim: given the choice between saving a life and preventing any number of people from temporarily experiencing a mild headache, you should always save the life. Many moral theorists accept this claim. In doing so, they commit themselves to some form of ‘moral absolutism’: the view that there are some moral considerations that cannot be outweighed by any number of lesser moral considerations. In contexts of certainty, it is clear what moral absolutism requires of you. However, what (...)
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  39. No free lunch: The significance of tiny contributions.Zach Barnett - 2018 - Analysis 78 (1):3-13.
    There is a well-known moral quandary concerning how to account for the rightness or wrongness of acts that clearly contribute to some morally significant outcome – but which each seem too small, individually, to make any meaningful difference. One consequentialist-friendly response to this problem is to deny that there could ever be a case of this type. This paper pursues this general strategy, but in an unusual way. Existing arguments for the consequentialist-friendly position are sorites-style arguments. Such arguments imagine varying (...)
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  40. Limited Aggregation and Risk.Seth Lazar - 2018 - Philosophy and Public Affairs 46 (2):117-159.
    Many of us believe (1) Saving a life is more important than averting any number of headaches. But what about risky cases? Surely: (2) In a single choice, if the risk of death is low enough, and the number of headaches at stake high enough, one should avert the headaches rather than avert the risk of death. And yet, if we will face enough iterations of cases like that in (2), in the long run some of those small risks of (...)
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  41. Spectrum arguments and hypersensitivity.Theron Pummer - 2018 - Philosophical Studies 175 (7):1729-1744.
    Larry Temkin famously argues that what he calls spectrum arguments yield strong reason to reject Transitivity, according to which the ‘all-things-considered better than’ relation is transitive. Spectrum arguments do reveal that the conjunctions of independently plausible claims are inconsistent with Transitivity. But I argue that there is very strong independent reason to reject such conjunctions of claims, and thus that the fact that they are inconsistent with Transitivity does not yield strong reason to reject Transitivity.
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  42. Epistemic Consequentialism: Haters Gonna Hate.Nathaniel Sharadin - 2018 - In Christos Kyriacou & Robin McKenna (eds.), Metaepistemology: Realism & Antirealism. Cham: Palgrave Macmillan. pp. 121-143.
    Epistemic consequentialism has been charged with ignoring the epistemic separateness of propositions and with (thereby) allowing trade-offs between propositions. Here, I do two things. First, I investigate the metaphor of the epistemic separateness of propositions. I argue that either (i) the metaphor is meaningfully unpacked in a way that is modeled on the moral separateness of persons, in which case it doesn’t support a ban on trade-offs or (ii) it isn’t meaningfully unpacked, in which case it really doesn’t support a (...)
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  43. Balancing small against large burdens.Alex Voorhoeve - 2018 - Behavioural Public Policy 2 (1):125-142.
    Common principles for resource allocation in health care can prioritize the alleviation of small health burdens over lifesaving treatment. I argue that there is some evidence that these principles are at odds with a sizable share of public opinion, which holds that saving a life should take priority over any number of cures for minor ailments. I propose two possible explanations for this opinion, one debunking and one vindicatory. I also outline how well-designed surveys and moral inquiry could help decide (...)
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  44. Review of Iwao Hirose, Moral Aggregation. [REVIEW]Johan E. Gustafsson - 2017 - Mind 126 (503):964-967.
  45. Why One Should Count Only Claims with which One Can Sympathize.Alex Voorhoeve - 2017 - Public Health Ethics 10 (2):148-156.
    When one faces competing claims of varying strength on public resources for health, which claims count? This paper proposes the following answer. One should count, or aggregate, a person’s claim just in case one could sympathize with her desire to prioritize her own claim over the strongest competing claim. It argues that this principle yields appealing case judgments and has a plausible grounding in both sympathetic identification with each person, taken separately, and respect for the person for whom most is (...)
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  46. Mixed Feelings About Mixed Solutions.Jan Gertken - 2016 - Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 19 (1):59-69.
    The numbers problem concerns the question of what is the right thing to do in trade-off cases where one can save different non-overlapping groups of persons, but not everyone. Proponents of mixed solutions argue that both saving the many and holding a lottery to determine whom to save can each be morally right in such cases, depending on the relative sizes of the groups involved. In his book The Dimensions of Consequentialism, Martin Peterson presents an ingenious version of such an (...)
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  47. Persons and value: a thesis in population axiology.Simon Beard - 2015 - Dissertation,
    My thesis demonstrates that, despite a number of impossibility results, a satisfactory and coherent theory of population ethics is possible. It achieves this by exposing and undermining certain key assumptions that relate to the nature of welfare and personal identity. I analyse a range of arguments against the possibility of producing a satisfactory population axiology that have been proposed by Derek Parfit, Larry Temkin, Tyler Cowen and Gustaf Arrhenius. I conclude that these results pose a real and significant challenge. However, (...)
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  48. Value Receptacles.Richard Yetter Chappell - 2015 - Noûs 49 (2):322-332.
    Utilitarianism is often rejected on the grounds that it fails to respect the separateness of persons, instead treating people as mere “receptacles of value”. I develop several different versions of this objection, and argue that, despite their prima facie plausibility, they are all mistaken. Although there are crude forms of utilitarianism that run afoul of these objections, I advance a new form of the view—‘token-pluralistic utilitarianism’—that does not.
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  49. Sequential Dominance and the Anti-Aggregation Principle.Johan E. Gustafsson - 2015 - Philosophical Studies 172 (6):1593-1601.
    According to T. M. Scanlon’s anti-aggregation principle, it is wrong to save a larger number of people from minor harms rather than a smaller number from much more serious harms. This principle is a central part of many influential and anti-utilitarian ethical theories. According to the sequential-dominance principle, one does something wrong if one knowingly performs a sequence of acts whose outcome would be worse for everyone than the outcome of an alternative sequence of acts. The intuitive appeal of the (...)
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  50. Why Sore Throats Don't Aggregate against a Life, but Arms Do.Alex Voorhoeve - 2015 - Journal of Medical Ethics 41 (6):492-493.
    When do claims to be saved of a small or moderate harm aggregate against a competing claim to be saved from an early death? In this short response to Kamm's Bioethical Prescriptions, I argue for the following answer: aggregation of weaker claims against a life is permitted just in case, in a one-to-one contest, a person with a weaker claim would have a personal prerogative to prioritize her claim over a stranger’s competing claim to life.
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