The Reverse Repugnant Conclusion

Utilitas 14 (3):360 (2002)
Total utilitarianism implies Parfit's repugnant conclusion. For any world containing ten billion very happy people, there is a better world where a vast number of people have lives barely worth living. One common response is to claim that life in Parfit's Z is better than he suggests, and thus that his conclusion is not repugnant. This paper shows that this strategy cannot succeeed. Total utilitarianism also implies a reverse repugnant conclusion. For any world where ten billion people have lives of excruciating agony, there is a worse world where a vast number of people have lives almost worth living. This reverse repugnant conclusion is at least as repugnant as Parfit's original. If we avoid the latter by raising the zero level, then the former becomes more repugnant. We cannot save total utilitarianism by tinkering with the zero level
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DOI 10.1017/S0953820800003654
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