Authors
Mark Budolfson
Rutgers University - New Brunswick
Abstract
Collective action problems lie behind many core issues in ethics and social philosophy—for example, whether an individual is required to vote, whether it is wrong to consume products that are produced in morally objectionable ways, and many others. In these cases, it matters greatly what we together do, but yet a single individual’s ‘non-cooperative’ choice seems to make no difference to the outcome and also seems to involve no violation of anyone’s rights. Here it is argued that—contrary to influential arguments by Peter Singer, Alastair Norcross, Shelly Kagan, Derek Parfit, and Allan Gibbard—an appeal to the expected consequences of acts cannot deliver plausible verdicts on many of these cases, because individuals often have a probability of making a difference that is sufficiently small to ensure that ‘non-cooperation’ is the option with the greatest expected value, even when consequentialists themselves agree that ‘cooperation’ is required. In addition, an influential argument by Singer, Norcross, and Kagan is shown to be unsound for the claim that in the collective action situations at issue, the expected effect of one individual’s action equals the average effect of everyone’s similar actions. These results have general implications for normative theory, because they undermine the sort of consequentialist explanation of collective action cases that is initially attractive from many theoretical points of view, consequentialist and otherwise.
Keywords Consequentialism   Normative ethics  Peter Singer  Alastair Norcross  Shelly Kagan  Derek Parfit  Allan Gibbard  Inefficacy  Vegetarianism  Consumer ethics  Ethics of consumption
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Market Harms and Market Benefits.Hayden Wilkinson - forthcoming - Philosophy and Public Affairs.
The psychological basis of collective action.James Fanciullo - 2021 - Philosophical Studies 178 (2):427-444.

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