Mind 127 (507):807-832 (2018)

Authors
Teruji Thomas
Oxford University
Abstract
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 ‘impossibility theorems’, as developed by Gustaf Arrhenius. I highlight two ways in which these theorems fall short of their goal: some appeal to a supposedly egalitarian condition which, however, does not properly reflect egalitarian intuitions; the others rely on a background assumption about the structure of welfare which cannot be taken for granted. Nonetheless, the theorems remain important: they give insight into the difficulty, if not perhaps the impossibility, of constructing a satisfactory population axiology. We should aim for reflective equilibrium between intuitions and more theoretical considerations. I conclude by highlighting one possible ingredient in this equilibrium, which, I argue, leaves open a still wider range of acceptable theories: the possibility of vague or otherwise indeterminate value relations.
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1093/mind/fzx047
Options
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy


Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 69,177
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

Reasons and Persons.Derek Parfit - 1984 - Oxford University Press.
Reasons and Persons.Joseph Margolis - 1986 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 47 (2):311-327.
Utilitarianism.John Stuart Mill - 1863 - Cleveland: Cambridge University Press.
Weighing Lives.John Broome - 2004 - Oxford University Press.

View all 46 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

An Intrapersonal Addition Paradox.Jacob M. Nebel - 2019 - Ethics 129 (2):309-343.
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.

View all 18 citations / Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Population Axiology.Gustaf Svante Henning Arrhenius - 2000 - Dissertation, University of Toronto (Canada)
An Impossibility Theorem for Welfarist Axiologies.Gustaf Arrhenius - 2000 - Economics and Philosophy 16 (2):247-266.
Population Axiology.Hilary Greaves - 2017 - Philosophy Compass 12 (11):e12442.
Mere Addition and Two Trilemmas of Population Ethics.Erik Carlson - 1998 - Economics and Philosophy 14 (2):283.
Moral Uncertainty About Population Ethics.Hilary Greaves & Toby Ord - forthcoming - Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy.
Chapter 1: AXIOLOGY-Formal Axiology of Henryk Elzenberg.Leslaw Hostynski - 2009 - Dialogue and Universalism 19 (8-9):19.

Analytics

Added to PP index
2017-12-30

Total views
84 ( #137,013 of 2,499,401 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
9 ( #80,217 of 2,499,401 )

How can I increase my downloads?

Downloads

My notes