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Jake Nebel
University of Southern California
  1. Rank-Weighted Utilitarianism and the Veil of Ignorance.Jacob M. Nebel - forthcoming - Ethics.
    Lara Buchak argues for a version of rank-weighted utilitarianism that assigns greater weight to the interests of the worse off. She argues that our distributive principles should be derived from the preferences of rational individuals behind a veil of ignorance, who ought to be risk averse. I argue that Buchak’s appeal to the veil of ignorance leads to a particular way of extending rank-weighted utilitarianism to the evaluation of uncertain prospects. This method recommends choices that violate the unanimous preferences of (...)
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  2. Asymmetries in the Value of Existence.Jacob M. Nebel - forthcoming - Philosophical Perspectives.
    According to asymmetric comparativism, it is worse for a person to exist with a miserable life than not to exist, but it is not better for a person to exist with a happy life than not to exist. My aim in this paper is to explain how asymmetric comparativism could possibly be true. My account of asymmetric comparativism begins with a different asymmetry, regarding the (dis)value of early death. I offer an account of this early death asymmetry, appealing to the (...)
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  3. Totalism Without Repugnance.Jacob M. Nebel - forthcoming - In Festschrift for Derek Parfit.
    Totalism is the view that one distribution of well-being is better than another just in case the one contains a greater sum of well-being than the other. Many philosophers, following Parfit, reject totalism on the grounds that it entails the repugnant conclusion that, for any number of excellent lives, there is some number of mediocre lives whose existence would be better. This paper develops a theory of welfare aggregation—the lexical-threshold view—that allows totalism to avoid the repugnant conclusion, as well as (...)
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  4. Normative Reasons as Reasons Why We Ought.Jacob M. Nebel - 2019 - Mind 128 (510):459-484.
    I defend the view that a reason for someone to do something is just a reason why she ought to do it. This simple view has been thought incompatible with the existence of reasons to do things that we may refrain from doing or even ought not to do. For it is widely assumed that there are reasons why we ought to do something only if we ought to do it. I present several counterexamples to this principle and reject some (...)
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  5. Status Quo Bias, Rationality, and Conservatism About Value.Jacob M. Nebel - 2015 - Ethics 125 (2):449-476.
    Many economists and philosophers assume that status quo bias is necessarily irrational. I argue that, in some cases, status quo bias is fully rational. I discuss the rationality of status quo bias on both subjective and objective theories of the rationality of preferences. I argue that subjective theories cannot plausibly condemn this bias as irrational. I then discuss one kind of objective theory, which holds that a conservative bias toward existing things of value is rational. This account can fruitfully explain (...)
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  6. A Fixed-Population Problem for the Person-Affecting Restriction.Jacob M. Nebel - forthcoming - Philosophical Studies.
    According to the person-affecting restriction, one distribution of welfare can be better than another only if there is someone for whom it is better. Extant problems for the person-affecting restriction involve variable-population cases, such as the nonidentity problem, which are notoriously controversial and difficult to resolve. This paper develops a fixed-population problem for the person-affecting restriction. The problem reveals that, in the presence of incommensurable welfare levels, the person-affecting restriction is incompatible with minimal requirements of impartial beneficence even in fixed-population (...)
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  7. The Good, the Bad, and the Transitivity of Better Than.Jacob M. Nebel - 2018 - Noûs 52 (4):874-899.
    The Rachels–Temkin spectrum arguments against the transitivity of better than involve good or bad experiences, lives, or outcomes that vary along multiple dimensions—e.g., duration and intensity of pleasure or pain. This paper presents variations on these arguments involving combinations of good and bad experiences, which have even more radical implications than the violation of transitivity. These variations force opponents of transitivity to conclude that something good is worse than something that isn’t good, on pain of rejecting the good altogether. That (...)
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  8. Hopes, Fears, and Other Grammatical Scarecrows.Jacob M. Nebel - 2019 - Philosophical Review 128 (1):63-105.
    The standard view of "believes" and other propositional attitude verbs is that such verbs express relations between agents and propositions. A sentence of the form “S believes that p” is true just in case S stands in the belief-relation to the proposition that p; this proposition is the referent of the complement clause "that p." On this view, we would expect the clausal complements of propositional attitude verbs to be freely intersubstitutable with their corresponding proposition descriptions—e.g., "the proposition that p"—as (...)
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  9. An Intrapersonal Addition Paradox.Jacob M. Nebel - 2019 - Ethics 129 (2):309-343.
    I present a new argument for the repugnant conclusion. The core of the argument is a risky, intrapersonal analogue of the mere addition paradox. The argument is important for three reasons. First, some solutions to Parfit’s original puzzle do not obviously generalize to the intrapersonal puzzle in a plausible way. Second, it raises independently important questions about how to make decisions under uncertainty for the sake of people whose existence might depend on what we do. And, third, it suggests various (...)
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  10. Priority, Not Equality, for Possible People.Jacob M. Nebel - 2017 - Ethics 127 (4):896-911.
    How should we choose between uncertain prospects in which different possible people might exist at different levels of wellbeing? Alex Voorhoeve and Marc Fleurbaey offer an egalitarian answer to this question. I give some reasons to reject their answer and then sketch an alternative, which I call person-affecting prioritarianism.
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  11.  36
    The Case for Comparability.Cian Dorr, Jacob M. Nebel & Jake Zuehl - manuscript
    We argue that all gradable expressions in natural language obey a principle that we call Comparability: if x and y are both F to some degree, then either x is at least as F as y or y is at least as F as x. This principle has been widely rejected among philosophers, especially by ethicists, and its falsity has been claimed to have important normative implications. We argue that Comparability is needed to explain the goodness of several patterns of (...)
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    Calibration Dilemmas in the Ethics of Distribution.Jacob M. Nebel & H. Orri Stefansson - manuscript
    This paper presents a new kind of problem in the ethics of distribution. The problem takes the form of several "calibration dilemmas," in which intuitively reasonable aversion to small-stakes inequalities requires leading theories of distribution to recommend intuitively unreasonable aversion to large-stakes inequalities—e.g., inequalities in which half the population would gain an arbitrarily large quantity of well-being or resources. We first lay out a series of such dilemmas for a family of broadly prioritarian theories. We then consider a widely endorsed (...)
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