Does the total principle have any repugnant implications?

Ratio 12 (1):80–98 (1999)
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Abstract

On the Total Principle, the best state of affairs (ceteris paribus) is the one with the greatest net sum of welfare value. Parfit rejects this principle, because he believes that it implies the Repugnant Conclusion, the conclusion that for any large population of people, all with lives well worth living, there will be some much larger population whose existence would be better, even though its members all have lives that are only barely worth living. Recently, however, a number of philosophers have suggested that the Total Principle does not imply the Repugnant Conclusion provided that a certain axiological view (namely, the ‘Discontinuity View’) is correct. Nevertheless, as I point out, there are three different versions of the Repugnant Conclusion, and it appears that the Total Principle will imply two of the three even if the Discontinuity View is correct. I then go on to argue that one of the two remaining versions turns out not to be repugnant after all. Second, I argue that the last remaining version is not, as it turns out, implied by the Total Principle. Thus, my arguments show that the Total Principle has no repugnant implications.

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Douglas W. Portmore
Arizona State University

Citations of this work

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.
Value Superiority.Gustaf Arrhenius & Wlodek Rabinowicz - 2015 - In Iwao Hirose & Jonas Olson (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Value Theory. New York, USA: Oxford University Press USA. pp. 225-248.
Whole-Life Welfarism.Ben Bramble - 2014 - American Philosophical Quarterly 51 (1):63-74.
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References found in this work

Well‐Being And Time.J. David Velleman - 1991 - Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 72 (1):48-77.
Overpopulation and the Quality of Life.Derek Parfit - 1986 - In Peter Singer (ed.), Applied Ethics. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 145-164.
Overpopulation and the quality of life.Derek Parfit - 2004 - In J. Ryberg & T. Tännsjö (eds.), The Repugnant Conclusion. Kluwer Academic Publishers. pp. 7-22.
Utilitarianism and the life of virtue.Roger Crisp - 1992 - Philosophical Quarterly 42 (167):139-160.

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