The non-identity fallacy: Harm, probability and another look at Parfit's depletion example

Utilitas 19 (3):267-311 (2007)
The non-identity problem is really a collection of problems having distinct logical features. For that reason, non-identity problems can be typed. This article focuses on just one type of non-identity problem, the problem, which includes Derek Parfit's depletion example and many others. The can't-expect-better problem uses an assessment about the low probability of any particular person's coming into existence to reason that an earlier wrong act does not harm that person. This article argues that that line of reasoning is unusually treacherous in that it makes not just one hard-to-detect error in what is done with the relevant probability assessments but rather alternates between two. We sort out one fallacy only to fall, against all odds (as it were), into a second. By avoiding both errors, we become able to discern harm in cases in which the can't-expect-better problem argues there is none. We will then be in a position to set aside the can't-expect-better problem as an objection against the person-based intuition that acts that are must be at least some existing or future person
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DOI 10.1017/S0953820807002609
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