Ethical Theory and Population Problems

Dissertation, University of Massachusetts Amherst (2001)
  Copy   BIBTEX


Ethical theory faces a group of difficult puzzles concerning populations. Here is one: would it be right to maximize utility by causing the number of people existing in the further future to be very, very large, even if this means that each of their lives is barely worth living? Derek Parfit concludes that standard utilitarianism yields the result that it would be right to create such a world. He calls this conclusion "repugnant." I begin with an examination of the objection, in which I argue that the problem is axiological, not normative. I present my interpretation of the problem, and consider and reject the most popular and plausible responses in the literature. ;Many people agree with Parfit that the repugnant conclusion is unacceptable. They see this as a strong objection to impersonalism, and conclude that only person-affecting utilitarianism solves the population problems in question. I argue that the most credible person-affecting theories incorrectly answer simple population questions and are deficient in other respects. ;Need we accept Parfit's objection? I advance my own view---that there are totalistic axiologies that do not imply the repugnant conclusion, and defeat the mere addition paradox. I show that these theories have much in common with classical totalism, and they give the intuitively correct result in the crucial cases under consideration.



    Upload a copy of this work     Papers currently archived: 92,347

External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server

Through your library

Similar books and articles

The repugnant conclusion.Jesper Ryberg - 2008 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
The Very Repugnant Conclusion.Gustaf Arrhenius - 2003 - In Krister Segerberg & Ryszard Sliwinski (eds.), Logic, Law, Morality: Thirteen Essays in Practical Philosophy in Honour of Lennart Åqvist. Department of Philosophy, Uppsala University. pp. 29-44.
Repugnance or Intransitivity: A Repugnant But Forced Choice.Stuart Rachels - 2004 - In Jesper Ryberg Torbjorn Tannsjo (ed.), The Repugnant Conclusion: Essays on Population Ethics. Kluwer Academic Publishers. pp. 163--86.
The Reverse Repugnant Conclusion.Tim Mulgan - 2002 - Utilitas 14 (3):360.
In defence of repugnance.Michael Huemer - 2008 - Mind 117 (468):899-933.
One more axiological impossibility theorem.Gustaf Arrhenius - 2009 - In Lars-Göran Johansson, Jan Österberg & Ryszard Sliwinski (eds.), Logic, Ethics and All That Jazz. Essays in Honour of Jordan Howard Sobel. Uppsala: Uppsala Philosophical Studies. pp. 23-37.
How Lives Measure Up.Molly Gardner & Justin Weinberg - 2013 - Acta Analytica 28 (1):31-48.
The diminishing marginal value of happy people.James L. Hudson - 1987 - Philosophical Studies 51 (1):123 - 137.
The Parfit Population Problem.Don Locke - 1987 - Philosophy 62 (240):131 - 157.


Added to PP

16 (#912,083)

6 months
1 (#1,478,500)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Citations of this work

No citations found.

Add more citations

References found in this work

Animal Liberation.J. Baird Callicott - 1980 - Environmental Ethics 2 (4):311-338.
The non-identity problem.James Woodward - 1986 - Ethics 96 (4):804-831.
Moral problems of population.Jan Narveson - 1973 - The Monist 57 (1):62–86.
Inequality.Larry S. Temkin - 1993 - In Louis P. Pojman & Robert Westmoreland (eds.), Equality: Selected Readings. Oup Usa.
Value and population size.Thomas Hurka - 1982 - Ethics 93 (3):496-507.

View all 32 references / Add more references