Population Ethics

Edited by Johan E. Gustafsson (University of York, University of Gothenburg, Institute for Futures Studies)
About this topic
Summary This category covers two major issues concerning the ethics of future persons: (1) Population axiology, or what principles determine the value of a population.  For example, does an additional happy life make a positive contribution to the value of the world, all else equal?  (2) The non-identity problem, and the moral evaluation of actions that determine who will exist in the future.
Key works Parfit 1984 introduced both the non-identity problem and the fundamental problems of population axiology.  Much subsequent discussion has concerned whether we should accept the repugnant conclusion, or whether there is any plausible way to avoid it.  Arrhenius 2000 offers an impossibility theorem, showing that several prima facie plausible axioms cannot be jointly held.  Such difficulties have led several philosophers to embrace the repugnant conclusion — Huemer 2008 is a representative example.  Others, following Hurka 1982, have rejected the mere-addition principle: the idea that adding a happy life cannot (all else equal) make a population worse.
Introductions Parfit 2004 offers a streamlined introduction to the problems of population axiology. Roberts 2011 has an accessible discussion of the intuitive "Asymmetry" according to which we are required not to bring into existence miserable lives, but are permitted not to bring into existence happy lives.
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  1. Sorites arguments, a myth of genius, and overpopulation.Terence Rajivan Edward - manuscript
    This paper responds to Theron Pummer’s distinction between Sorites arguments and repugnant conclusion arguments by presenting a Sorites overpopulation argument. Also I present a Sorites argument in favour of myths of genius.
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  2. Should longtermists recommend hastening extinction rather than delaying it?Richard Pettigrew - manuscript
    Longtermism is the view that the most urgent global priorities, and those to which we should devote the largest portion of our resources, are those that focus on (i) ensuring a long future for humanity, and perhaps sentient or intelligent life more generally, and (ii) improving the quality of the lives that inhabit that long future. While it is by no means the only one, the argument most commonly given for this conclusion is that these interventions have greater expected goodness (...)
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  3. Calibrating variable-value population ethics.Dean Spears & H. Orri Stefansson - manuscript
    Variable-Value axiologies propose solutions to the challenges of population ethics. These views avoid Parfit's Repugnant Conclusion, while satisfying some weak instances of the Mere Addition principle (for example, at small population sizes). We apply calibration methods to Variable-Value views while assuming: first, some very weak instances of Mere Addition, and, second, some plausible empirical assumptions about the size and welfare of the intertemporal world population. We find that Variable-Value views imply conclusions that should seem repugnant to anyone who opposes Total (...)
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  4. Non-Additive Axiologies in Large Worlds.Christian Tarsney & Teruji Thomas - manuscript
    Is the overall value of a world just the sum of values contributed by each value-bearing entity in that world? Additively separable axiologies (like total utilitarianism, prioritarianism, and critical level views) say 'yes', but non-additive axiologies (like average utilitarianism, rank-discounted utilitarianism, and variable value views) say 'no'. This distinction is practically important: additive axiologies support 'arguments from astronomical scale' which suggest (among other things) that it is overwhelmingly important for humanity to avoid premature extinction and ensure the existence of a (...)
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  5. Chaos, add infinitum.Hayden Wilkinson - manuscript
    Our universe is both chaotic and (most likely) infinite in space and time. But it is within this setting that we must make moral decisions. This presents problems. The first: due to our universe's chaotic nature, our actions often have long-lasting, unpredictable effects; and this means we typically cannot say which of two actions will turn out best in the long run. The second problem: due to the universe's infinite dimensions, and infinite population therein, we cannot compare outcomes by simply (...)
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  6. The moral status of potential people.Gustaf Arrhenius - manuscript
    It has been known for quite a while that traditional ethical theories have very counterintuitive and paradoxical implications for questions concerning procreation and our moral duties to future generations. Classical Utilitarianism, for example, seems to imply that we have a moral duty to procreate and that we should try to have as many off-springs as possible. More disturbingly, it implies Derek Parfit’s well-known Repugnant Conclusion.
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  7. Population Ethics under Risk.Gustaf Arrhenius & H. Orri Stefansson - forthcoming - Social Choice and Welfare.
    Population axiology concerns how to evaluate populations in terms of their moral goodness, that is, how to order populations by the relations “is better than” and “is as good as”. The task has been to find an adequate theory about the moral value of states of affairs where the number of people, the quality of their lives, and their identities may vary. So far, this field has largely ignored issues about uncertainty and the conditions that have been discussed mostly pertain (...)
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  8. Does Climate Change Policy Depend Importantly on Population Ethics? Deflationary Responses to the Challenges of Population Ethics for Public Policy.Mark Budolfson, Gustaf Arrhenius & Dean Spears - forthcoming - In Philosophy and Climate Change. Oxford University Press. pp. 111-136.
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  9. Too Easy, Too Good, Too Late?Alexander Dietz - forthcoming - Philosophers' Imprint.
    Plausibly, one important part of a good life is doing work that makes a contribution, or a positive difference to the world. In this paper, however, I explore contribution pessimism, the view that people will not always have adequate opportunities for making contributions. I distinguish between three interestingly different and at least initially plausible reasons why this view might be true: in slogan form, things might become too easy, they might become too good, or we might be too late. Now, (...)
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  10. Measuring Social Welfare by Proximity to an Optimum Population.Karin Enflo - forthcoming - Pacific Philosophical Quarterly.
    This essay introduces a new type of measure of social welfare, where populations are evaluated by their resemblance to an optimum population, which is an (in principle) possible population with the highest degree of social welfare, relative to some circumstances. Here it is argued to be the largest possible population where everyone fares maximally well. The new measure is responsive to quality of welfare, equality of welfare, and the number of people. It satisfies dominance and negative monotonicity, and it avoids (...)
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  11. Discounting future health.Hilary Greaves - forthcoming - In Emanuel Norheim (ed.), Global health priority-setting: Cost-effectiveness and beyond. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.
    In carrying out cost-benefit or cost-effective analysis, a discount rate should be applied to some kinds of future benefits and costs. It is controversial, though, whether future health is in this class. I argue that one of the standard arguments for discounting (from diminishing marginal returns) is inapplicable to the case of health, while another (favouring a pure rate of time preference) is unsound in any case. However, there are two other reasons that might support a positive discount rate for (...)
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  12. Moral uncertainty about population ethics.Hilary Greaves & Toby Ord - forthcoming - Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy.
    Given the deep disagreement surrounding population axiology, one should remain uncertain about which theory is best. However, this uncertainty need not leave one neutral about which acts are better or worse. We show that as the number of lives at stake grows, the Expected Moral Value approach to axiological uncertainty systematically pushes one towards choosing the option preferred by the Total and Critical Level views, even if one’s credence in those theories is low.
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  13. An Identity Crisis in Philosophy.Samuel Kahn - forthcoming - Argumenta.
    The following seems to be a truism in modern day philosophy: No agent can have had other parents (IDENTITY). IDENTITY shows up in discussions of moral luck, parenting, gene editing, and population ethics. In this paper, I challenge IDENTITY. I do so by showing that the most plausible arguments that can be made in favor of IDENTITY do not withstand critical scrutiny. The paper is divided into four sections. In the first, I document the prevalence of IDENTITY. In the second, (...)
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  14. Resources and the acceptability of the Repugnant Conclusion.Stephen J. Schmidt - forthcoming - Theoria. An International Journal for Theory, History and Foundations of Science.
    Parfit’s Repugnant Conclusion argues, against intuition, that for any world A, another world Z with higher population and minimal well-being is better. That intuition is incorrect because the argument has not considered resources that support well-being. Z must have many more resources supporting well-being than A does. Z is repugnant because it spreads those resources among too many people; another world with Z’s resources and fewer people, if available, would be far superior. But Z is still better than A; it (...)
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  15. Path Independence and a Persistent Paradox of Population Ethics.Rush T. Stewart - forthcoming - Journal of Philosophy.
    In the face of an impossibility result, some assumption must be relaxed. The Mere Addition Paradox is an impossibility result in population ethics. Here, I explore substantially weakening the decision-theoretic assumptions involved. The central finding is that the Mere Addition Paradox persists even in the general framework of choice functions when we assume Path Independence as a minimal decision-theoretic constraint. Choice functions can be thought of either as generalizing the standard axiological assumption of a binary “betterness” relation, or as providing (...)
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  16. Average Utilitarianism Implies Solipsistic Egoism.Christian Tarsney - forthcoming - Australasian Journal of Philosophy.
    Average utilitarianism and several related axiologies, when paired with the standard expectational theory of decision-making under risk and with reasonable empirical credences, can find their practical prescriptions overwhelmingly determined by the minuscule probability that the agent assigns to solipsism -- i.e., to the hypothesis that there is only one welfare subject in the world, viz., herself. This either (i) constitutes a reductio of these axiologies, (ii) suggests that they require bespoke decision theories, or (iii) furnishes a novel argument for ethical (...)
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  17. The Asymmetry, Uncertainty, and the Long Term.Teruji Thomas - forthcoming - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research.
    The asymmetry is the view in population ethics that, while we ought to avoid creating additional bad lives, there is no requirement to create additional good ones. The question is how to embed this intuitively compelling view in a more complete normative theory, and in particular one that treats uncertainty in a plausible way. While arguing against existing approaches, I present new and general principles for thinking about welfarist choice under uncertainty. Together, these reduce arbitrary choices to uncertainty-free ones, regardless (...)
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  18. The Procreation Asymmetry, Improvable-Life Avoidance, and Impairable-Life Acceptance.Elliott Thornley - forthcoming - Analysis.
    Many philosophers are attracted to a complaints-based theory of the procreation asymmetry, according to which creating a person with a bad life is wrong (all else equal) because that person can complain about your act, whereas declining to create a person who would have a good life is not wrong (all else equal) because that person never exists and so cannot complain about your act. In this paper, I present two problems for such theories: the problem of impairable-life acceptance and (...)
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  19. A New Argument Against Critical-Level Utilitarianism.Patrick Williamson - forthcoming - Utilitas:1-18.
    One prominent welfarist axiology, critical-level utilitarianism, says that individual lives must surpass a specified ‘critical level’ in order to make a positive contribution to the comparative status of a given population. In this article I develop a new dilemma for critical-level utilitarians. When comparatively evaluating populations composed of different species, critical-level utilitarians must decide whether the critical level is a universal threshold or whether the critical level is a species-relative threshold. I argue that both thresholds lead to a range of (...)
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  20. How to Assess Claims in Multiple-Option Choice Sets.Jonas Harney & Jake Khawaja - 2023 - Philosophy and Public Affairs 51 (1):60-92.
    Particular persons have claims against being made worse off than they could have been. The literature, however, has focused primarily on only two-option cases; yet, these cases fail to capture all of the morally relevant factors, especially when a person’s existence is in question. This paper explores how to assess claims in multiple-option choice sets. We scrutinize the only extant proposal, offered by Michael Otsuka, which we call the Weakening View. In light of its problems, we develop an alternative: the (...)
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  21. Was evolution worth it?Guy Kahane - 2023 - Philosophical Studies 180 (1):249-271.
    The evolutionary process involved the suffering of quadrillions of sentient beings over millions of years. I argue that when we take this into account, then it is likely that when the first humans appeared, the world was already at an enormous axiological deficit, and that even on favorable assumptions about humanity, it is doubtful that we have overturned this deficit or ever will. Even if there’s no such deficit or we can overturn it, it remains the case that everything of (...)
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  22. On theory X and what matters most.Simon Beard & Patrick Kaczmarek - 2022 - In Jeff McMahan, Tim Campbell, James Goodrich & Ketan Ramakrishan (eds.), Ethics and Existence: The Legacy of Derek Parfit. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 358-386.
    One of Derek Parfit’s greatest legacies was the search for Theory X, a theory of population ethics that avoided all the implausible conclusions and paradoxes that have dogged the field since its inception: the Absurd Conclusion, the Repugnant Conclusion, the Non-Identity Problem, and the Mere Addition Paradox. In recent years, it has been argued that this search is doomed to failure and no satisfactory population axiology is possible. This chapter reviews Parfit’s life’s work in the field and argues that he (...)
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  23. Population Ethics and Animal Farming.Stijn Bruers - 2022 - Environmental Ethics 44 (4):291-311.
    Is animal farming permissible when animals would have a positive welfare? The happy animal farming problem represent the paradigmatic problem in population ethics, because its simple structure introduces the most important complications of population ethics. Three new population ethical theories that avoid the counter-intuitive repugnant and sadistic conclusions are discussed and applied to the animal farming problem. Breeding farm animals would not be permissible according to these theories, except under some rather unrealistic conditions, such as those farm animals being so (...)
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  24. Does the Repugnant Conclusion have important implications for axiology or for public policy?Mark Budolfson & Dean Spears - 2022 - In Gustaf Arrhenius (ed.), Oxford Handbook of Population Ethics. pp. 350–C15.P105.
    Formal arguments have proven that avoiding the Repugnant Conclusion is impossible without rejecting one or more highly plausible population principles. To many, such proofs establish not only a deep challenge for axiology, but also pose an important practical problem of how policymaking can confidently proceed without resolving any of the central questions of population ethics. Here we offer deflationary responses: first to the practical challenge, and then to the more fundamental challenge for axiology. Regarding the practical challenge, we provide an (...)
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  25. No Harm Done? An Experimental Approach to the Nonidentity Problem.Matthew Kopec & Justin Bruner - 2022 - Journal of the American Philosophical Association 8 (1):169-189.
    Discussions of the non-identity problem presuppose a widely shared intuition that actions or policies that change who comes into existence don't, thereby, become morally unproblematic. We hypothesize that this intuition isn’t generally shared by the public, which could have widespread implications concerning how to generate support for large-scale, identity-affecting policies relating to matters like climate change. To test this, we ran a version of the well-known dictator game designed to mimic the public's behavior over identity-affecting choices. We found the public (...)
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  26. Posthumous Repugnancy.Benjamin Kultgen - 2022 - Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy 22 (3):317-337.
    I argue that the possibility of posthumous harm ought to be rejected. My argument centers on a kind of repugnancy case involving posthumous harm. Supposing the existence of posthumous harm, a person whose wellbeing was extremely high while she was alive could incur small posthumous harms over a long enough period such that it is true of that person that she had a life not worth living. I respond to various objections and in the end conclude that rejecting posthumous harm (...)
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  27. Towards A Multispecies Population Ethics.Simo Kyllönen - 2022 - Environmental Ethics 44 (4):347-366.
    Current ecological threats, such as the sixth mass extinction or climate change, highlight the need to evaluate the moral implications of changing populations, both human and non-human. The paper sketches a non-anthropocentric and multispecies sufficientarian account of population ethics. After discussing several other options for multispecies population ethics, the paper proposes a two-level account of multispecies sufficientarianism, according to which the value of populations depend on two kinds of sufficientarian thresholds. First, there is a species-relativized individual-level threshold for what species-specific (...)
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  28. Totalism without Repugnance.Jacob M. Nebel - 2022 - In Jeff McMahan, Tim Campbell, James Goodrich & Ketan Ramakrishnan (eds.), Ethics and Existence: The Legacy of Derek Parfit. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 200-231.
    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 lives that are barely worth living whose existence would be better. This paper develops a theory of welfare aggregation—the lexical-threshold view—that allows totalism to avoid the repugnant (...)
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  29. Sorites On What Matters.Theron Pummer - 2022 - In Jeff McMahan, Timothy Campbell, Ketan Ramakrishnan & Jimmy Goodrich (eds.), Ethics and Existence: The Legacy of Derek Parfit. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 498–523.
    Ethics in the tradition of Derek Parfit’s Reasons and Persons is riddled with sorites-like arguments, which lead us by what seem innocent steps to seemingly false conclusions. Take, for example, spectrum arguments for the Repugnant Conclusion that appeal to slight differences in quality of life. Several authors have taken the view that, since spectrum arguments are structurally analogous to sorites arguments, the correct response to spectrum arguments is structurally analogous to the correct response to sorites arguments. This sorites analogy is (...)
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  30. On Evaluative Imprecision.Teruji Thomas - 2022 - In Jeff McMahan, Timothy Campbell, Ketan Ramakrishnan & Jimmy Goodrich (eds.), Ethics and Existence: The Legacy of Derek Parfit. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 478-497.
    This chapter presents several arguments related to Parfit's notion of evaluative imprecision and his imprecisionist lexical view of population ethics. After sketching Parfit's view, it argues that, contrary to Parfit, imprecision and lexicality are both compatible with thinking about goodness in terms of positions on a scale of value. Then, by examining the role that imprecision is meant to play in defusing spectrum argument, it suggests that imprecision should be identified with vagueness. Next, it argues that there is space for (...)
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  31. Separability in Population Ethics.Teruji Thomas - 2022 - In Gustaf Arrhenius, Krister Bykvist, Tim Campbell & Elizabeth Finneron-Burns (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Population Ethics. pp. 271-295.
    Separability is roughly the principle that, in comparing the value of two outcomes, one can ignore any people whose existence and welfare are unaffected. Separability is both antecedently plausible, at least as a principle of beneficence, and surprisingly powerful; it is the key to some of the best positive arguments in population ethics. This chapter surveys the motivations for and consequences of separability. In particular, it presents an ‘additivity theorem’ which explains how separability leads to total utilitarianism and closely related (...)
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  32. A dilemma for lexical and Archimedean views in population axiology.Elliott Thornley - 2022 - Economics and Philosophy 38 (3):395-415.
    Lexical views in population axiology can avoid the Repugnant Conclusion without violating Transitivity or Separability. However, they imply a dilemma: either some good life is better than any number of slightly worse lives, or else the ‘at least as good as’ relation on populations is radically incomplete. In this paper, I argue that Archimedean views face an analogous dilemma. I thus conclude that the lexical dilemma gives us little reason to prefer Archimedean views. Even if we give up on lexicality, (...)
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  33. Critical Levels, Critical Ranges, and Imprecise Exchange Rates in Population Axiology.Elliott Thornley - 2022 - Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy 22 (3).
    According to Critical-Level Views in population axiology, an extra life improves a population only if that life’s welfare exceeds some fixed ‘critical level.’ An extra life at the critical level leaves the new population equally good as the original. According to Critical-Range Views, an extra life improves a population only if that life’s welfare exceeds some fixed ‘critical range.’ An extra life within the critical range leaves the new population incommensurable with the original. -/- In this paper, I sharpen some (...)
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  34. The Repugnant Conclusion: An Overview.Gustaf Arrhenius & Emil Andersson - 2021 - In Stephen M. Gardiner (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Intergenerational Ethics. Oxford:
    The repugnant conclusion can be formulated as follows: For any population consisting of people with very high positive welfare, there is a better population in which everyone has a very low positive welfare, other things being equal. As the name indicates, this conclusion appears unacceptable. Yet it has proven to be surprisingly difficult to find a theory that avoids it without implying other very counterintuitive conclusions. Moreover, the conclusion is a problem not just for total utilitarians or those committed to (...)
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  35. The Defective Character Solution to the Non-identity Problem.Ben Bramble - 2021 - Journal of Philosophy 118 (9):504-520.
    The non-identity problem is that some actions seem morally wrong even though, by affecting future people’s identities, they are worse for nobody. In this paper, I further develop and defend a lesser-known solution to the problem, one according to which when such actions are wrong, it is not because of what they do or produce, but rather just because of why they were performed. In particular, I argue that the actions in non-identity cases are wrong just when and because they (...)
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  36. Population Ethics and the Prospects for Fertility Policy as Climate Mitigation Policy.Mark Budolfson - 2021 - Journal of Development Studies 57 (9):1499-1510.
    What are the prospects for using population policy as tool to reduce carbon emissions? In this paper, we review evidence from population science, in order to inform debates in population ethics that, so far, have largely taken place within the academic philosophy literature. In particular, we ask whether fertility policy is likely to have a large effect on carbon emissions, and therefore on temperature change. Our answer is no. Prospects for a policy of fertility-reduction-as-climate-mitigation are limited by population momentum, a (...)
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  37. Repugnant Conclusions.Mark Budolfson - 2021 - Social Choice and Welfare 57.
    The population ethics literature has long focused on attempts to avoid the repugnant conclusion. We show that a large set of social orderings that are conventionally understood to escape the repugnant conclusion do not in fact avoid it in all instances. As we demonstrate, prior results depend on formal definitions of the repugnant conclusion that exclude some repugnant cases, for reasons inessential to any "repugnance" (or other meaningful normative properties) of the repugnant conclusion. In particular, the literature traditionally formalizes the (...)
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  38. Parfit's Ethics.Richard Yetter Chappell - 2021 - Cambridge University Press.
    Derek Parfit was one of the most important and influential moral philosophers of the late 20th and early 21st centuries. This Element offers a critical introduction to his wide-ranging ethical thought, focusing especially on his two most significant works, Reasons and Persons and On What Matters, and their contribution to the consequentialist moral tradition. Topics covered include: rationality and objectivity, distributive justice, self-defeating moral theories, Parfit's Triple Theory, personal identity, and population ethics.
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  39. Quantity, quality, equality: introducing a new measure of social welfare.Karin Enflo - 2021 - Social Choice and Welfare 57 (3):665–701.
    In this essay I propose a new measure of social welfare. It captures the intuitive idea that quantity, quality, and equality of individual welfare all matter for social welfare. More precisely, it satisfies six conditions: Equivalence, Dominance, Quality, Strict Monotonicity, Equality and Asymmetry. These state that i) populations equivalent in individual welfare are equal in social welfare; ii) a population that dominates another in individual welfare is better; iii) a population that has a higher average welfare than another population is (...)
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  40. A St Petersburg Paradox for risky welfare aggregation.Zachary Goodsell - 2021 - Analysis 81 (3):420-426.
    The principle of Anteriority says that prospects that are identical from the perspective of every possible person’s welfare are equally good overall. The principle enjoys prima facie plausibility, and has been employed for various theoretical purposes. Here it is shown using an analogue of the St Petersburg Paradox that Anteriority is inconsistent with central principles of axiology.
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  41. On Parfit’s Wide Person-Affecting Principle.Jonas Harney - 2021 - In Michael Schefczyk & Christoph Schmidt-Petri (eds.), Utility, Progress, and Technology: Proceedings of the 15th Conference of the International Society for Utilitarian Studies. Karlsruhe, Deutschland: pp. 69–78.
    Parfit (2017) proposed a novel principle for outcome betterness in different people and different number choices. It is claimed to solve the Non-Identity Problem while avoiding the Repugnant Conclusion, and it shall do so in person-affecting rather than in impersonal terms. According to this Wide Dual Person-Affecting Principle, one of two outcomes would be (i) in one way better if this outcome would together benefit people more, and (ii) in another way better if this outcome would benefit each person more. (...)
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  42. Discounting Small Probabilities Solves the Intrapersonal Addition Paradox.Petra Kosonen - 2021 - Ethics 132 (1):204-217.
    Nebel argues for the Repugnant Conclusion via the “Intrapersonal Repugnant Conclusion,” on which certainty of a mediocre life is better for individuals than a sufficiently small chance of an excellent life. In this article, I deny that acceptance of the Intrapersonal Repugnant Conclusion leads us to the Repugnant Conclusion. I point out that on many views which avoid the Repugnant Conclusion we should discount very small probabilities down to zero. If we do, then Nebel’s crucial premise of Ex Ante Pareto (...)
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  43. Transfinitely Transitive Value.Kacper Kowalczyk - 2021 - Philosophical Quarterly 72 (1):108-134.
    This paper develops transfinite extensions of transitivity and acyclicity in the context of population ethics. They are used to argue that it is better to add good lives, worse to add bad lives, and equally good to add neutral lives, where a life's value is understood as personal value. These conclusions rule out a number of theories of population ethics, feed into an argument for the repugnant conclusion, and allow us to reduce different-number comparisons to same-number ones. Challenges to these (...)
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  44. Benatar on the Badness of All Human Lives.Iddo Landau - 2021 - Philosophia 49 (1):333-345.
    This paper presents a critique of David Benatar’s arguments on the badness of all human lives. I argue that even if Benatar is right that there is an asymmetry between the good and the bad in life so that each “unit” of bad is indeed more effective than each “unit” of good, lives in which there is a lot of good and only little bad are still overall good. Even if there are more unfulfilled than fulfilled desires in life, a (...)
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  45. Life Worth Living (rev. edn).Thaddeus Metz - 2021 - In Filomena Maggino (ed.), Encyclopedia of Quality of Life and Well-Being Research, 2nd edn. Springer. pp. 1-4.
    An updated version of this encyclopedia entry on the concept of what, if anything, makes life worthwhile.
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  46. Utils and Shmutils.Jacob M. Nebel - 2021 - Ethics 131 (3):571-599.
    Matthew Adler's Measuring Social Welfare is an introduction to the social welfare function (SWF) methodology. This essay questions some ideas at the core of the SWF methodology having to do with the relation between the SWF and the measure of well-being. The facts about individual well-being do not single out a particular scale on which well-being must be measured. As with physical quantities, there are multiple scales that can be used to represent the same information about well-being; no one scale (...)
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  47. Complaints and tournament population ethics.Abelard Podgorski - 2021 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research.
    In this paper, I develop an approach to population ethics which explains what we are permitted to do in virtue of the possible complaints against our action. This task is made difficult by a serious problem that arises when we attempt to generalize the view from two-option to many-option cases. The solution makes two significant moves – first, accepting that complaints are essentially pairwise comparative, and second, reimagining decision-making as a tournament between options competing two at a time. The right (...)
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  48. Two asymmetries in population and general normative ethics.Mat Rozas - 2021 - Etikk I Praksis - Nordic Journal of Applied Ethics 1:41-49.
    This paper examines a dilemma in reproductive and population ethics that can illuminate broader questions in axiology and normative ethics. This dilemma emerges because most people have conflicting intuitions concerning whether the interests of non-existent beings can outweigh the interests of existing beings when those merely potential beings are expected to have overall net-good or overall net-bad lives. The paper claims that the standard approach to this issue, in terms of exemplifying the conflict between Narrow Person-Affecting Views and Impersonal Views, (...)
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  49. Additively-separable and rank-discounted variable-population social welfare functions: A characterization.Dean Spears & H. Orri Stefansson - 2021 - Economic Letters 203:1-3.
    Economic policy evaluations require social welfare functions for variable-size populations. Two important candidates are critical-level generalized utilitarianism (CLGU) and rank-discounted critical-level generalized utilitarianism, which was recently characterized by Asheim and Zuber (2014) (AZ). AZ introduce a novel axiom, existence of egalitarian equivalence (EEE). First, we show that, under some uncontroversial criteria for a plausible social welfare relation, EEE suffices to rule out the Repugnant Conclusion of population ethics (without AZ’s other novel axioms). Second, we provide a new characterization of CLGU: (...)
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  50. The impossibility of a satisfactory population prospect axiology (independently of Finite Fine-Grainedness).Elliott Thornley - 2021 - Philosophical Studies 178 (11):3671-3695.
    Arrhenius’s impossibility theorems purport to demonstrate that no population axiology can satisfy each of a small number of intuitively compelling adequacy conditions. However, it has recently been pointed out that each theorem depends on a dubious assumption: Finite Fine-Grainedness. This assumption states that there exists a finite sequence of slight welfare differences between any two welfare levels. Denying Finite Fine-Grainedness makes room for a lexical population axiology which satisfies all of the compelling adequacy conditions in each theorem. Therefore, Arrhenius’s theorems (...)
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