Ignore risk; Maximize expected moral value

Noûs 57 (1):144-161 (2021)
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Many philosophers assume that, when making moral decisions under uncertainty, we should choose the option that has the greatest expected moral value, regardless of how risky it is. But their arguments for maximizing expected moral value do not support it over rival, risk-averse approaches. In this paper, I present a novel argument for maximizing expected value: when we think about larger series of decisions that each decision is a part of, all but the most risk-averse agents would prefer that we consistently choose the option with the highest expected value. To the extent that what we choose on a given occasion should be guided by the entire series of choices we prefer, then on each occasion, we should choose the option with the highest expected moral value.


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Michael Zhao
University of Notre Dame

Citations of this work

Patients, doctors and risk attitudes.Nicholas Makins - 2023 - Journal of Medical Ethics 49 (11):737-741.
Taking Risks on Behalf of Another.Johanna Thoma - 2023 - Philosophy Compass 18 (3):e12898.
Can risk aversion survive the long run?Hayden Wilkinson - 2022 - Philosophical Quarterly 73 (2):625-647.

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References found in this work

What we owe to each other.Thomas Scanlon - 1998 - Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.
What to do when you don’t know what to do.Andrew Sepielli - 2009 - Oxford Studies in Metaethics 4:5-28.

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