Aggregation within lives: Larry S. Temkin

Social Philosophy and Policy 26 (1):1-29 (2009)
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Many philosophers have discussed problems of additive aggregation across lives. In this article, I suggest that anti-additive aggregationist principles sometimes apply within lives, as well as between lives, and hence that we should reject a widely accepted conception of individual self-interest. The article has eight sections. Section I is introductory. Section II offers a general account of aggregation. Section III presents two examples of problems of additive aggregation across lives: Derek Parfit's Repugnant Conclusion, and my Lollipops for Life Case Section IV suggests that many may have misdiagnosed the source and scope of anti-additive aggregationist considerations, due to the influence of Rawls's and Nozick's claims about the separateness of individuals. Accordingly, many leave Sidgwick's conception of self-interest—which incorporates an additive aggregationist approach to valuing individual lives—unchallenged. Section V suggests that the separateness of individuals may have led some to conflate the issues of compensation and moral balancing. Section VI argues that an additive aggregationist approach is often deeply implausible for determining the overall value of a life. Section VII discusses a Single Life Repugnant Conclusion, first considered by McTaggart. Section VIII concludes with a summary, and a brief indication of work remaining.



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Larry Temkin
Rutgers University - New Brunswick

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