Southwest Philosophy Review 36 (1):161-168 (2020)

Alastair Norcross
University of Colorado, Boulder
Many significant harms, such as the mass suffering of animals on factory farms, can only be prevented, or at least lessened, by the collective action of thousands, or in some cases millions, of individual agents. In the face of this, it can seem as if individuals are powerless to make a difference, and thus that they lack reasons, at least from the consequentialist perspective, to refrain from eating meat. This has become known as the “causal impotence” problem. The standard response is to appeal to expected utility calculations. Recently, this response has been attacked, mostly on the grounds that the relevant causal mechanisms are more complex than its proponents are said to assume. In this paper, I argue that the attacks are unsuccessful, both at undermining specific expected utility calculations urged by me and Kagan, or even at showing that significantly different expected utility calculations wouldn’t justify the relevant behavior.
Keywords Conference Proceedings  Contemporary Philosophy  General Interest
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DOI 10.5840/swphilreview202036118
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