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Repugnance or Intransitivity: A Repugnant But Forced Choice

In Jesper Ryberg Torbjorn Tannsjo (ed.), The Repugnant Conclusion: Essays on Population Ethics. Kluwer Academic Publishers. pp. 163--86 (2004)

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  1. Persons and Value: A Thesis in Population Axiology.Simon Beard - unknown
    My thesis demonstrates that, despite a number of impossibility results, a satisfactory and coherent theory of population ethics is possible. It achieves this by exposing and undermining certain key assumptions that relate to the nature of welfare and personal identity. I analyse a range of arguments against the possibility of producing a satisfactory population axiology that have been proposed by Derek Parfit, Larry Temkin, Tyler Cowen and Gustaf Arrhenius. I conclude that these results pose a real and significant challenge. However, (...)
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  • Sorites On What Matters.Theron Pummer - forthcoming - In Jeff McMahan, Timothy Campbell, Ketan Ramakrishnan & Jimmy Goodrich (eds.), Ethics and Existence: The Legacy of Derek Parfit. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
    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. I argue against this (...)
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  • Rational Choice and the Transitivity of Betterness.Toby Handfield - 2014 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 89 (3):584-604.
    If A is better than B and B is better than C, then A is better than C, right? Larry Temkin and Stuart Rachels say: No! Betterness is nontransitive, they claim. In this paper, I discuss the central type of argument advanced by Temkin and Rachels for this radical idea, and argue that, given this view very likely has sceptical implications for practical reason, we would do well to identify alternative responses. I propose one such response, which employs the idea (...)
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  • On the Buddhist Truths and the Paradoxes in Population Ethics.Bruno Contestabile - 2010 - Contemporary Buddhism 11 (1):103-113.
    Starting point The starting point of this paper is the following citation concerning the state of contemporary population ethics: Most discussion in population ethics has concentrated on how to evaluate populations in regard to their goodness, that is, how to order populations by the relations ‘is better than’ and ‘is as good as’. This field has been riddled with paradoxes which purport to show that our considered beliefs are inconsistent in cases where the number of people and their welfare varies. (...)
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  • A Dilemma for Lexical and Archimedean Views in Population Axiology.Elliott Thornley - forthcoming - Economics and Philosophy.
    According to lexical views in population axiology, there are good lives x and y such that some number of lives equally good as x is not worse than any number of lives equally good as y. Such views can avoid the Repugnant Conclusion without violating Transitivity or Separability, but 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 (...)
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  • The impossibility of a satisfactory population prospect axiology.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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  • Some Possibilities in Population Axiology.Teruji Thomas - 2018 - Mind 127 (507):807-832.
    It is notoriously difficult to find an intuitively satisfactory rule for evaluating populations based on the welfare of the people in them. Standard examples, like total utilitarianism, either entail the Repugnant Conclusion or in some other way contradict common intuitions about the relative value of populations. Several philosophers have presented formal arguments that seem to show that this happens of necessity: our core intuitions stand in contradiction. This paper assesses the state of play, focusing on the most powerful of these (...)
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  • Does the Repugnant Conclusion Have Any Probative Force?Christopher Cowie - 2017 - Philosophical Studies 174 (12):3021-3039.
    In engaging with the repugnant conclusion many contemporary philosophers, economists and social scientists make claims about what a minimally good life is like. For example, some claim that such a life is quite good by contemporary standards, and use this to defend classical utilitarianism, whereas others claim that it is not, and use this to uphold the challenge that the repugnant conclusion poses to classical utilitarianism. I argue that many of these claims—by both sides—are not well-founded. We have no sufficiently (...)
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  • Topics in Population Ethics.Teruji Thomas - 2016 - Dissertation, University of Oxford
    This thesis consists of several independent papers in population ethics. I begin in Chapter 1 by critiquing some well-known 'impossibility theorems', which purport to show there can be no intuitively satisfactory population axiology. I identify axiological vagueness as a promising way to escape or at least mitigate the effects of these theorems. In particular, in Chapter 2, I argue that certain of the impossibility theorems have little more dialectical force than sorites arguments do. From these negative arguments I move to (...)
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  • The Repugnant Conclusion.Jesper Ryberg - 2008 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
    In Derek Parfit's original formulation the Repugnant Conclusion is characterized as follows: “For any possible population of at least ten billion people, all with a very high quality of life, there must be some much larger imaginable population whose existence, if other things are equal, would be better even though its members have lives that are barely worth living” (Parfit 1984). The Repugnant Conclusion highlights a problem in an area of ethics which has become known as population ethics . The (...)
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  • Aggregating Reasons and Persons: On Sorting Out the Logic of the Good, Royce’s Style.Mona Simion - 2014 - Contemporary Pragmatism 11 (2):107-121.
    Contemporary ‘Fitting Attitude’ axiological frameworks – defining value in terms of having properties that provide reasons for pro-attitudes – struggle with the so-called Wrong Kind of Reasons problem. That is, they fail to offer a coherent account as to what reasons are fitted to enter our evaluative endeavors in the first place. Furthermore, WKR opens FA to charges regarding intransitivity of value ordering. I argue that revisiting Josiah Royce’s ‘plan of life’ mediating principle offers a promising reasons’ aggregation recipe, and (...)
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  • Is Equality Essentially Comparative?Michael Weber - 2007 - Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 10 (2):209-226.
    Larry Temkin has shown that Derek Parfit’s well-known Mere Addition Paradox suggests a powerful argument for the intransitivity of the relation “better than.” The crux of the argument is the view that equality is essentially comparative, according to which the same inequality can be evaluated differently depending on what it is being compared to. The comparative view of equality should be rejected, I argue, and hence so too this argument for intransitivity.
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  • How to Accept the Transitivity of Better Than.Justin Klocksiem - 2016 - Philosophical Studies 173 (5):1309-1334.
    Although the thesis that the moral better than relation is transitive seems obviously true, there is a growing literature according to which Parfit’s repugnant conclusion and related puzzles reveal that this thesis is false or problematic. This paper begins by presenting several such puzzles and explaining how they can be used in arguments for the intransitivity of better than. It then proposes and defends a plausible alternative picture of the behavior of better than that both resolves the repugnant conclusion and (...)
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