A Defence of the Asymmetry in Population Ethics

Res Publica 18 (2):145-157 (2012)
Per Algander
New University of Lisbon
A common intuition is that there is a moral difference between ‘making people happy’ and ‘making happy people.’ This intuition, often referred to as ‘the Asymmetry,’ has, however, been criticized on the grounds that it is incoherent. Why is there, for instance, not a corresponding difference between ‘making people unhappy’ and ‘making unhappy people’? I argue that the intuition faces several difficulties but that these can be met by introducing a certain kind of reason that is favouring but non-requiring. It is argued that there are structural similarities between the asymmetry and moral options and that the asymmetry can be defended as an instance of a moral option
Keywords Asymmetry  Harm  Benefit  Procreation  Reasons  Options  Supererogation  Anti-natalism
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DOI 10.1007/s11158-011-9164-0
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Reasons and Persons.Derek Parfit - 1984 - Oxford University Press.
The Limits of Morality.Shelly Kagan - 1989 - Oxford University Press.
The Right and the Good.W. D. Ross - 1930 - Clarendon Press.
Weighing Lives.John Broome - 2004 - Oxford University Press.

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