No free lunch: The significance of tiny contributions

Analysis 78 (1):3-13 (2018)
Authors
Zach Barnett
National University of Singapore
Abstract
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 a subject’s predicament bit by bit until it is clear that a relevant difference has been achieved. The arguments offered in this paper are structurally different, and do not rely on any sorites series. For this reason, they are not vulnerable to objections that have been leveled against the sorites-style arguments.
Keywords ethics  collective harm  collective impact  difference making  imperceptibility
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DOI 10.1093/analys/anx112
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References found in this work BETA

Reasons and Persons.Derek Parfit - 1984 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 47 (2):311-327.
Do I Make a Difference?Shelly Kagan - 2011 - Philosophy and Public Affairs 39 (2):105-141.
Vaulting Intuition: Temkin's Critique of Transitivity.Alex Voorhoeve - 2013 - Economics and Philosophy 29 (3):409-425.

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