Mere Addition and Two Trilemmas of Population Ethics

Economics and Philosophy 14 (2):283 (1998)
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Abstract

A principal aim of the branch of ethics called ‘population theory’ or ‘population ethics’ is to find a plausible welfarist axiology, capable of comparing total outcomes with respect to value. This has proved an exceedingly difficult task. In this paper I shall state and discuss two ‘trilemmas’, or choices between three unappealing alternatives, which the population ethicist must face. The first trilemma is not new. It originates with Derek Parfit's well-known ‘Mere Addition Paradox’, and was first explicitly stated by Yew-Kwang Ng. I shall argue that one horn of this trilemma is less unattractive than Parfit and others have claimed. The second trilemma, which is a kind of mirror image of the first, appears hitherto to have gone unnoticed. Apart from attempting to resolve the two trilemmas, I shall suggest certain features which I believe a plausible welfarist axiology should possess. The details of this projected axiology will, however, be left open

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Citations of this work

Population axiology.Hilary Greaves - 2017 - Philosophy Compass 12 (11):e12442.
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.
An Intrapersonal Addition Paradox.Jacob M. Nebel - 2019 - Ethics 129 (2):309-343.

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References found in this work

Reasons and Persons.Derek Parfit - 1984 - Oxford, GB: Oxford University Press.
Principia ethica.George Edward Moore - 1903 - Mineola, N.Y.: Dover Publications. Edited by Thomas Baldwin.
Well-being: its meaning, measurement, and moral importance.James Griffin - 1986 - Oxford [Oxfordshire]: Clarendon Press.
Principia Ethica.George Edward Moore - 1903 - International Journal of Ethics 14 (3):377-382.
A reply to my critics.George Edward Moore - 1942 - In Paul Arthur Schilpp (ed.), The Philosophy of G. E. Moore. Open Court.

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