Mixed Feelings About Mixed Solutions

Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 19 (1):59-69 (2016)
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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 approach that avoids a commitment to interpersonal value aggregation, which is highly controversial and rejected by many philosophers for a number of reasons. I criticise Peterson’s proposal by first arguing that it cannot account for the idea that holding a lottery is morally wrong if differences in numbers are very large, and by second pointing out that it relies on implausible assumptions about what is good for an individual. Given the shortcomings of Peterson’s non-aggregationist version of a mixed solution, I next address the issue of how problematic a commitment to interpersonal aggregation really is. To this end, I present an aggregationist version of a mixed solution that is reason-based and bypasses most standard objections to interpersonal value aggregation. I conclude that although there is reason to be optimistic, it remains to be seen whether a mixed solution can be worked out in a fully satisfying way



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Jan Gertken
Humboldt University, Berlin

References found in this work

What we owe to each other.Thomas Scanlon - 1998 - Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.
Slaves of the passions.Mark Andrew Schroeder - 2007 - New York: Oxford University Press.
On What Matters: Two-Volume Set.Derek Parfit - 2011 - New York: Oxford University Press.
Ethics without principles.Jonathan Dancy - 2004 - New York: Oxford University Press.
What We Owe to Each Other.Thomas Scanlon - 2002 - Mind 111 (442):323-354.

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