Population Ethics

Edited by Johan E. Gustafsson (University of York, University of Gothenburg, Institute for Futures Studies)
About this topic
Summary This category covers two major issues concerning the ethics of future persons: (1) Population axiology, or what principles determine the value of a population.  For example, does an additional happy life make a positive contribution to the value of the world, all else equal?  (2) The non-identity problem, and the moral evaluation of actions that determine who will exist in the future.
Key works Parfit 1984 introduced both the non-identity problem and the fundamental problems of population axiology.  Much subsequent discussion has concerned whether we should accept the repugnant conclusion, or whether there is any plausible way to avoid it.  Arrhenius 2000 offers an impossibility theorem, showing that several prima facie plausible axioms cannot be jointly held.  Such difficulties have led several philosophers to embrace the repugnant conclusion — Huemer 2008 is a representative example.  Others, following Hurka 1982, have rejected the mere-addition principle: the idea that adding a happy life cannot (all else equal) make a population worse.
Introductions Parfit 2004 offers a streamlined introduction to the problems of population axiology. Roberts 2011 has an accessible discussion of the intuitive "Asymmetry" according to which we are required not to bring into existence miserable lives, but are permitted not to bring into existence happy lives.
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  1. Population Ethics Under Risk.Gustaf Arrhenius & H. Orri Stefansson - manuscript
    Population axiology concerns how to evaluate populations in terms of their moral goodness, that is, how to order populations by the relations “is better than” and “is as good as”. The task has been to find an adequate theory about the moral value of states of affairs where the number of people, the quality of their lives, and their identities may vary. So far, this field has largely ignored issues about uncertainty and the conditions that have been discussed mostly pertain (...)
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  2. Calibrating Variable-Value Population Ethics.Dean Spears & H. Orri Stefansson - manuscript
    Variable-Value axiologies propose solutions to the challenges of population ethics. These views avoid Parfit's Repugnant Conclusion, while satisfying some weak instances of the Mere Addition principle (for example, at small population sizes). We apply calibration methods to Variable-Value views while assuming: first, some very weak instances of Mere Addition, and, second, some plausible empirical assumptions about the size and welfare of the intertemporal world population. We find that Variable-Value views imply conclusions that should seem repugnant to anyone who opposes Total (...)
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  3. Average Utilitarianism Implies Solipsistic Egoism.Christian Tarsney - manuscript
    Average utilitarianism and several related axiologies, when paired with the standard expectational theory of decision-making under risk and with reasonable empirical credences, can find their practical prescriptions overwhelmingly determined by the minuscule probability that the agent assigns to solipsism -- i.e., to the hypothesis that there is only one welfare subject in the world, viz., herself. This either (i) constitutes a reductio of these axiologies, (ii) suggests that they require bespoke decision theories, or (iii) furnishes a novel argument for ethical (...)
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  4. Non-Additive Axiologies in Large Worlds.Christian Tarsney & Teruji Thomas - manuscript
    Is the overall value of a world just the sum of values contributed by each value-bearing entity in that world? Additively separable axiologies (like total utilitarianism, prioritarianism, and critical level views) say 'yes', but non-additive axiologies (like average utilitarianism, rank-discounted utilitarianism, and variable value views) say 'no'. This distinction is practically important: additive axiologies support 'arguments from astronomical scale' which suggest (among other things) that it is overwhelmingly important for humanity to avoid premature extinction and ensure the existence of a (...)
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  5. The Moral Status of Potential People.Gustaf Arrhenius - manuscript
    It has been known for quite a while that traditional ethical theories have very counterintuitive and paradoxical implications for questions concerning procreation and our moral duties to future generations. Classical Utilitarianism, for example, seems to imply that we have a moral duty to procreate and that we should try to have as many off-springs as possible. More disturbingly, it implies Derek Parfit’s well-known Repugnant Conclusion.
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  6. Does Climate Change Policy Depend Importantly on Population Ethics? Deflationary Responses to the Challenges of Population Ethics for Public Policy.Mark Budolfson, Gustaf Arrhenius & Dean Spears - forthcoming - Climate Change and Philosophy,.
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  7. Does the Repugnant Conclusion Have Important Implications for Axiology or for Public Policy?Mark Budolfson & Dean Spears - forthcoming - In Oxford Handbook of Population Ethics.
    Formal arguments have proven that avoiding the Repugnant Conclusion is impossible without rejecting one or more highly plausible population principles. To many, such proofs establish not only a deep challenge for axiology, but also pose an important practical problem of how policymaking can confidently proceed without resolving any of the central questions of population ethics. Here we offer deflationary responses: first to the practical challenge, and then to the more fundamental challenge for axiology. Regarding the practical challenge, we provide an (...)
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  8. Measuring Social Welfare by Proximity to an Optimum Population.Karin Enflo - forthcoming - Pacific Philosophical Quarterly.
    This essay introduces a new type of measure of social welfare, where populations are evaluated by their resemblance to an optimum population, which is an (in principle) possible population with the highest degree of social welfare, relative to some circumstances. Here it is argued to be the largest possible population where everyone fares maximally well. The new measure is responsive to quality of welfare, equality of welfare, and the number of people. It satisfies dominance and negative monotonicity, and it avoids (...)
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  9. Discounting Future Health.Hilary Greaves - forthcoming - In Emanuel Norheim (ed.), Global health priority-setting: Cost-effectiveness and beyond. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.
    In carrying out cost-benefit or cost-effective analysis, a discount rate should be applied to some kinds of future benefits and costs. It is controversial, though, whether future health is in this class. I argue that one of the standard arguments for discounting (from diminishing marginal returns) is inapplicable to the case of health, while another (favouring a pure rate of time preference) is unsound in any case. However, there are two other reasons that might support a positive discount rate for (...)
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  10. Moral Uncertainty About Population Ethics.Hilary Greaves & Toby Ord - forthcoming - Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy.
    Given the deep disagreement surrounding population axiology, one should remain uncertain about which theory is best. However, this uncertainty need not leave one neutral about which acts are better or worse. We show that as the number of lives at stake grows, the Expected Moral Value approach to axiological uncertainty systematically pushes one towards choosing the option preferred by the Total and Critical Level views, even if one’s credence in those theories is low.
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  11. Resources and the Acceptability of the Repugnant Conclusion.Stephen J. Schmidt - forthcoming - Theoria. An International Journal for Theory, History and Foundations of Science.
    Parfit’s Repugnant Conclusion argues, against intuition, that for any world A, another world Z with higher population and minimal well-being is better. That intuition is incorrect because the argument has not considered resources that support well-being. Z must have many more resources supporting well-being than A does. Z is repugnant because it spreads those resources among too many people; another world with Z’s resources and fewer people, if available, would be far superior. But Z is still better than A; it (...)
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  12. Path Independence and a Persistent Paradox of Population Ethics.Rush T. Stewart - forthcoming - Journal of Philosophy.
    In the face of an impossibility result, some assumption must be relaxed. The Mere Addition Paradox is an impossibility result in population ethics. Here, I explore substantially weakening the decision-theoretic assumptions involved. The central finding is that the Mere Addition Paradox persists even in the general framework of choice functions when we assume Path Independence as a minimal decision-theoretic constraint. Choice functions can be thought of either as generalizing the standard axiological assumption of a binary “betterness” relation, or as providing (...)
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  13. A Dilemma for Lexical and Archimedean Views in Population Axiology.Elliott Thornley - forthcoming - Economics and Philosophy.
    According to lexical views in population axiology, there are good lives x and y such that some number of lives equally good as x is not worse than any number of lives equally good as y. Such views can avoid the Repugnant Conclusion without violating Transitivity or Separability, but they imply a dilemma: either some good life is better than any number of slightly worse lives, or else the ‘at least as good as’ relation on populations is radically incomplete, in (...)
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  14. Critical Levels, Critical Ranges, and Imprecise Exchange Rates in Population Axiology.Elliott Thornley - forthcoming - Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy.
    According to Critical-Level Views in population axiology, an extra life improves a population only if that life’s welfare exceeds some fixed ‘critical level.’ An extra life at the critical level leaves the new population equally good as the original. According to Critical-Range Views, an extra life improves a population only if that life’s welfare exceeds some fixed ‘critical range.’ An extra life within the critical range leaves the new population incommensurable with the original. -/- In this paper, I sharpen some (...)
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  15. The Equivalence of Egalitarianism and Prioritarianism.Karin Enflo - 2022 - Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy 22 (1).
    In this essay I argue that even though egalitarianism and prioritarianism are different theories of social welfare, they can use the same social welfare measures. I present six different arguments for this thesis. The first argument is that conceptual connections between egalitarianism and prioritarianism ensure that any measure that works for either theory works for both. The second argument is that conditions necessary and sufficient to identify egalitarian and prioritarian measures, respectively, are equivalent. The third argument is that both egalitarianism (...)
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  16. No Harm Done? An Experimental Approach to the Nonidentity Problem.Matthew Kopec & Justin Bruner - 2022 - Journal of the American Philosophical Association 8 (1):169-189.
    Discussions of the non-identity problem presuppose a widely shared intuition that actions or policies that change who comes into existence don't, thereby, become morally unproblematic. We hypothesize that this intuition isn’t generally shared by the public, which could have widespread implications concerning how to generate support for large-scale, identity-affecting policies relating to matters like climate change. To test this, we ran a version of the well-known dictator game designed to mimic the public's behavior over identity-affecting choices. We found the public (...)
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  17. Totalism Without Repugnance.Jacob M. Nebel - 2022 - In Jeff McMahan, Tim Campbell, James Goodrich & Ketan Ramakrishnan (eds.), Ethics and Existence: The Legacy of Derek Parfit. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 200-231.
    Totalism is the view that one distribution of well-being is better than another just in case the one contains a greater sum of well-being than the other. Many philosophers, following Parfit, reject totalism on the grounds that it entails the repugnant conclusion: that, for any number of excellent lives, there is some number of lives that are barely worth living whose existence would be better. This paper develops a theory of welfare aggregation—the lexical-threshold view—that allows totalism to avoid the repugnant (...)
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  18. 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. Oxford: 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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  19. On Evaluative Imprecision.Teruji Thomas - 2022 - In Jeff McMahan, Timothy Campbell, Ketan Ramakrishnan & Jimmy Goodrich (eds.), Ethics and Existence: The Legacy of Derek Parfit. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 478-497.
    This chapter presents several arguments related to Parfit's notion of evaluative imprecision and his imprecisionist lexical view of population ethics. After sketching Parfit's view, it argues that, contrary to Parfit, imprecision and lexicality are both compatible with thinking about goodness in terms of positions on a scale of value. Then, by examining the role that imprecision is meant to play in defusing spectrum argument, it suggests that imprecision should be identified with vagueness. Next, it argues that there is space for (...)
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  20. The Defective Character Solution to the Non-Identity Problem.Ben Bramble - 2021 - Journal of Philosophy 118 (9):504-520.
    The non-identity problem is that some actions seem morally wrong even though, by affecting future people’s identities, they are worse for nobody. In this paper, I further develop and defend a lesser-known solution to the problem, one according to which when such actions are wrong, it is not because of what they do or produce, but rather just because of why they were performed. In particular, I argue that the actions in non-identity cases are wrong just when and because they (...)
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  21. Parfit's Ethics.Richard Yetter Chappell - 2021 - Cambridge University Press.
    Derek Parfit was one of the most important and influential moral philosophers of the late 20th and early 21st centuries. This Element offers a critical introduction to his wide-ranging ethical thought, focusing especially on his two most significant works, Reasons and Persons and On What Matters, and their contribution to the consequentialist moral tradition. Topics covered include: rationality and objectivity, distributive justice, self-defeating moral theories, Parfit's Triple Theory, personal identity, and population ethics.
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  22. Quantity, Quality, Equality: Introducing a New Measure of Social Welfare.Karin Enflo - 2021 - Social Choice and Welfare 57 (3):665–701.
    In this essay I propose a new measure of social welfare. It captures the intuitive idea that quantity, quality, and equality of individual welfare all matter for social welfare. More precisely, it satisfies six conditions: Equivalence, Dominance, Quality, Strict Monotonicity, Equality and Asymmetry. These state that i) populations equivalent in individual welfare are equal in social welfare; ii) a population that dominates another in individual welfare is better; iii) a population that has a higher average welfare than another population is (...)
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  23. A St Petersburg Paradox for Risky Welfare Aggregation.Zachary Goodsell - 2021 - Analysis 81 (3):420-426.
    The principle of Anteriority says that prospects that are identical from the perspective of every possible person’s welfare are equally good overall. The principle enjoys prima facie plausibility, and has been employed for various theoretical purposes. Here it is shown using an analogue of the St Petersburg Paradox that Anteriority is inconsistent with central principles of axiology.
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  24. On Parfit’s Wide Person-Affecting Principle.Jonas Harney - 2021 - In Michael Schefczyk & Christoph Schmidt-Petri (eds.), Utility, Progress, and Technology: Proceedings of the 15th Conference of the International Society for Utilitarian Studies. Karlsruhe, Deutschland: pp. 69–78.
    Parfit (2017) proposed a novel principle for outcome betterness in different people and different number choices. It is claimed to solve the Non-Identity Problem while avoiding the Repugnant Conclusion, and it shall do so in person-affecting rather than in impersonal terms. According to this Wide Dual Person-Affecting Principle, one of two outcomes would be (i) in one way better if this outcome would together benefit people more, and (ii) in another way better if this outcome would benefit each person more. (...)
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  25. Transfinitely Transitive Value.Kacper Kowalczyk - 2021 - Philosophical Quarterly 72 (1):108-134.
    This paper develops transfinite extensions of transitivity and acyclicity in the context of population ethics. They are used to argue that it is better to add good lives, worse to add bad lives, and equally good to add neutral lives, where a life's value is understood as personal value. These conclusions rule out a number of theories of population ethics, feed into an argument for the repugnant conclusion, and allow us to reduce different-number comparisons to same-number ones. Challenges to these (...)
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  26. Benatar on the Badness of All Human Lives.Iddo Landau - 2021 - Philosophia 49 (1):333-345.
    This paper presents a critique of David Benatar’s arguments on the badness of all human lives. I argue that even if Benatar is right that there is an asymmetry between the good and the bad in life so that each “unit” of bad is indeed more effective than each “unit” of good, lives in which there is a lot of good and only little bad are still overall good. Even if there are more unfulfilled than fulfilled desires in life, a (...)
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  27. Life Worth Living (Rev. Edn).Thaddeus Metz - 2021 - In Filomena Maggino (ed.), Encyclopedia of Quality of Life and Well-Being Research, 2nd edn. Springer. pp. 1-4.
    An updated version of this encyclopedia entry on the concept of what, if anything, makes life worthwhile.
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  28. Utils and Shmutils.Jacob M. Nebel - 2021 - Ethics 131 (3):571-599.
    Matthew Adler's Measuring Social Welfare is an introduction to the social welfare function (SWF) methodology. This essay questions some ideas at the core of the SWF methodology having to do with the relation between the SWF and the measure of well-being. The facts about individual well-being do not single out a particular scale on which well-being must be measured. As with physical quantities, there are multiple scales that can be used to represent the same information about well-being; no one scale (...)
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  29. Additively-Separable and Rank-Discounted Variable-Population Social Welfare Functions: A Characterization.Dean Spears & H. Orri Stefansson - 2021 - Economic Letters 203:1-3.
    Economic policy evaluations require social welfare functions for variable-size populations. Two important candidates are critical-level generalized utilitarianism (CLGU) and rank-discounted critical-level generalized utilitarianism, which was recently characterized by Asheim and Zuber (2014) (AZ). AZ introduce a novel axiom, existence of egalitarian equivalence (EEE). First, we show that, under some uncontroversial criteria for a plausible social welfare relation, EEE suffices to rule out the Repugnant Conclusion of population ethics (without AZ’s other novel axioms). Second, we provide a new characterization of CLGU: (...)
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  30. The impossibility of a satisfactory population prospect axiology (independently of Finite Fine-Grainedness).Elliott Thornley - 2021 - Philosophical Studies 178 (11):3671-3695.
    Arrhenius’s impossibility theorems purport to demonstrate that no population axiology can satisfy each of a small number of intuitively compelling adequacy conditions. However, it has recently been pointed out that each theorem depends on a dubious assumption: Finite Fine-Grainedness. This assumption states that there exists a finite sequence of slight welfare differences between any two welfare levels. Denying Finite Fine-Grainedness makes room for a lexical population axiology which satisfies all of the compelling adequacy conditions in each theorem. Therefore, Arrhenius’s theorems (...)
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  31. Equality for Prospective People: A Novel Statement and Defence.Alex Voorhoeve - 2021 - Utilitas 33 (3):304-320.
    A possible person’s conditional expected well-being is what the quality of their prospects would be if they were to come into existence. This paper examines the role that this form of expected well-being should play in distributing benefits among prospective people and in deciding who to bring into existence. It argues for a novel egalitarian view on which it is important to ensure equality in people’s life prospects, not merely between actual individuals, but also between all individuals who, given our (...)
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  32. Infinite Aggregation.Hayden Wilkinson - 2021 - Dissertation, Australian National University
    Suppose you found that the universe around you was infinite—that it extended infinitely far in space or in time and, as a result, contained infinitely many persons. How should this change your moral decision-making? Radically, it seems, according to some philosophers. According to various recent arguments, any moral theory that is ’minimally aggregative’ will deliver absurd judgements in practice if the universe is (even remotely likely to be) infinite. This seems like sound justification for abandoning any such theory. -/- My (...)
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  33. What Should We Agree on About the Repugnant Conclusion?Stephane Zuber, Nikhil Venkatesh, Torbjörn Tännsjö, Christian Tarsney, H. Orri Stefánsson, Katie Steele, Dean Spears, Jeff Sebo, Marcus Pivato, Toby Ord, Yew-Kwang Ng, Michal Masny, William MacAskill, Nicholas Lawson, Kevin Kuruc, Michelle Hutchinson, Johan E. Gustafsson, Hilary Greaves, Lisa Forsberg, Marc Fleurbaey, Diane Coffey, Susumu Cato, Clinton Castro, Tim Campbell, Mark Budolfson, John Broome, Alexander Berger, Nick Beckstead & Geir B. Asheim - 2021 - Utilitas 33 (4):379-383.
    The Repugnant Conclusion served an important purpose in catalyzing and inspiring the pioneering stage of population ethics research. We believe, however, that the Repugnant Conclusion now receives too much focus. Avoiding the Repugnant Conclusion should no longer be the central goal driving population ethics research, despite its importance to the fundamental accomplishments of the existing literature.
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  34. An Actualist Explanation of the Procreation Asymmetry.Daniel Cohen - 2020 - Utilitas 32 (1):70-89.
    While morality prohibits us from creating miserable children, it does not require us to create happy children. I offer an actualist explanation of this apparent asymmetry. Assume that for every possible world W, there is a distinct set of permissibility facts determined by the welfare of those who exist in W. Moral actualism says that actual-world permissibility facts should determine one's choice between worlds. But if one doesn't know which world is actual, one must aim for subjective rightness and maximize (...)
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  35. Population Axiology and the Possibility of a Fourth Category of Absolute Value.Johan E. Gustafsson - 2020 - Economics and Philosophy 36 (1):81-110.
    Critical-Range Utilitarianism is a variant of Total Utilitarianism which can avoid both the Repugnant Conclusion and the Sadistic Conclusion in population ethics. Yet Standard Critical-Range Utilitarianism entails the Weak Sadistic Conclusion, that is, it entails that each population consisting of lives at a bad well-being level is not worse than some population consisting of lives at a good well-being level. In this paper, I defend a version of Critical-Range Utilitarianism which does not entail the Weak Sadistic Conclusion. This is made (...)
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  36. Comparative Personal Views and the Non-Identity Problem.Jonas Harney - 2020 - Intergenerational Justice Review 5 (2):52-53.
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  37. On Parfit’s Wide Dual Person-Affecting Principle.Michal Masny - 2020 - Philosophical Quarterly 70 (278):114-139.
    In the posthumously published ‘Future People, the Non-Identity Problem, and Person-Affecting Principles’, Derek Parfit presents a novel axiological principle which he calls the Wide Dual Person-Affecting Principle and claims that it does not imply the Repugnant Conclusion. This paper shows that even the best version of Parfit's principle cannot avoid this conclusion. That said, accepting such a principle makes embracing the Repugnant Conclusion more justifiable. This paper further addresses important questions which Parfit left unanswered concerning: the relative importance of individual (...)
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  38. Utilitarianism with and Without Expected Utility.David McCarthy, Kalle Mikkola & Joaquin Teruji Thomas - 2020 - Journal of Mathematical Economics 87:77-113.
    We give two social aggregation theorems under conditions of risk, one for constant population cases, the other an extension to variable populations. Intra and interpersonal welfare comparisons are encoded in a single ‘individual preorder’. The theorems give axioms that uniquely determine a social preorder in terms of this individual preorder. The social preorders described by these theorems have features that may be considered characteristic of Harsanyi-style utilitarianism, such as indifference to ex ante and ex post equality. However, the theorems are (...)
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  39. A Fixed-Population Problem for the Person-Affecting Restriction.Jacob M. Nebel - 2020 - Philosophical Studies 177 (9):2779-2787.
    According to the person-affecting restriction, one distribution of welfare can be better than another only if there is someone for whom it is better. Extant problems for the person-affecting restriction involve variable-population cases, such as the nonidentity problem, which are notoriously controversial and difficult to resolve. This paper develops a fixed-population problem for the person-affecting restriction. The problem reveals that, in the presence of incommensurable welfare levels, the person-affecting restriction is incompatible with minimal requirements of impartial beneficence even in fixed-population (...)
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  40. Review of The Precipice: Existential Risk and the Future of Humanity. [REVIEW]Theron Pummer - 2020 - Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews 8.
  41. Introduction to the Collection.Andrea Sauchelli - 2020 - In Derek Parfit's Reasons and Persons: An Introduction and Critical Inquiry. London, UK: pp. 1-9.
  42. Derek Parfit’s Reasons and Persons: An Introduction and Critical Inquiry.Andrea Sauchelli (ed.) - 2020 - Routledge.
    Derek Parfit (1942–2017) is widely considered to be one of the most important moral philosophers of the twentieth century. Reasons and Persons is arguably the most influential of the two books published in his lifetime and hailed as a classic work of ethics and personal identity. Derek Parfit’s Reasons and Persons: An Introduction and Critical Inquiry is an outstanding introduction to and assessment of Parfit’s book, with chapters by leading scholars of ethics, metaphysics and of Parfit’s work. Part I provides (...)
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  43. Repugnance and Perfection.Nikhil Venkatesh - 2020 - Philosophy and Public Affairs 48 (3):262-284.
    A foundational problem in population ethics is the “repugnant conclusion", introduced by Derek Parfit in Reasons and Persons. It holds that for any possible population of at least ten billion lives of very high positive welfare, there is some larger possible population of lives of very low positive welfare whose existence would be better, if other things are equal. I call this claim RC1. In this article, I argue that by carefully considering the nature and variety of possible lives of (...)
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  44. Infinite aggregation: expanded addition.Hayden Wilkinson - 2020 - Philosophical Studies 178 (6):1917-1949.
    How might we extend aggregative moral theories to compare infinite worlds? In particular, how might we extend them to compare worlds with infinite spatial volume, infinite temporal duration, and infinitely many morally valuable phenomena? When doing so, we face various impossibility results from the existing literature. For instance, the view we adopt can endorse the claim that worlds are made better if we increase the value in every region of space and time, or that they are made better if we (...)
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  45. Asymmetry and Non-Identity.Per Algander & Katharina Berndt Rasmussen - 2019 - Utilitas 31 (3):213-230.
    In this paper we distinguish two versions of the non-identity problem: one involving positive well-being and one involving negative well-being. Intuitively, there seems to be a difference between the two versions of the problem. In the negative case it is clear that one ought to cause the better off person to exist. However, it has recently been suggested that this is not so in the positive case. We argue that such an asymmetrical treatment of the two versions should be rejected (...)
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  46. A Consequentialist Account of Narveson’s Dictum.John Cusbert & Robyn Kath - 2019 - Philosophical Studies 176 (7):1693-1709.
    In population ethics, Narveson’s dictum states: morality favours making people happy, but is neutral about making happy people. The thought is intuitively appealing; for example, it prohibits creating new people at the expense of those who already exist. However, there are well-known obstacles to accommodating Narveson’s dictum within a standard framework of overall betterness: any attempt to do so violates very plausible formal features of betterness. Therefore, the prevailing view is that the dictum is off-limits to consequentialists, who are thereby (...)
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  47. Imprecise Lexical Superiority and the (Slightly Less) Repugnant Conclusion.James Fanciullo - 2019 - Philosophical Studies 176 (8):2103-2117.
    Recently, Derek Parfit has offered a novel solution to the “Repugnant Conclusion” that compared with the existence of many people whose quality of life would be very high, there is some much larger number of people whose existence would be better but whose lives would be barely worth living. On this solution, qualitative differences between two populations will often entail that the populations are merely “imprecisely” comparable. According to Parfit, this fact allows us to avoid the Repugnant Conclusion without violating (...)
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  48. The Social Cost of Carbon: Valuing Inequality, Risk, and Population for Climate Policy.Marc Fleurbaey, Maddalena Ferranna, Mark Budolfson, Francis Dennig, Kian Mintz-Woo, Robert Socolow, Dean Spears & Stéphane Zuber - 2019 - The Monist 102 (1):84-109.
    We analyze the role of ethical values in the determination of the social cost of carbon, arguing that the familiar debate about discounting is too narrow. Other ethical issues are equally important to computing the social cost of carbon, and we highlight inequality, risk, and population ethics. Although the usual approach, in the economics of cost-benefit analysis for climate policy, is confined to a utilitarian axiology, the methodology of the social cost of carbon is rather flexible and can be expanded (...)
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  49. The Subject of Harm in Non-Identity Cases.Jens Johansson - 2019 - Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 22 (4):825-839.
    In a typical non-identity case, the agent performs an action that causes someone to exist at a low but positive level of well-being, although an alternative was to create another, much happier person instead. There seem to be strong moral reasons against what the agent does, but it is difficult to explain how this can be so. In particular, it seems that on a simple counterfactual account of harm, the action does not harm anyone, as it does not make anyone (...)
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  50. History And Persons.Guy Kahane - 2019 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 99 (1):162-187.
    The non-identity problem is usually considered in the forward-looking direction but a version of it also applies to the past, due to the fact that even minor historical changes would have affected the whole subsequent sequence of births, dramatically changing who comes to exist next. This simple point is routinely overlooked by familiar attitudes and evaluative judgments about the past, even those of sophisticated historians. I shall argue, however, that it means that when we feel sadness about some historical tragedy, (...)
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