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Christian Tarsney [17]Christian J. Tarsney [1]
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Christian Tarsney
Oxford University
  1. Intertheoretic Value Comparison: A Modest Proposal.Christian Tarsney - 2018 - Journal of Moral Philosophy 15 (3):324-344.
    In the growing literature on decision-making under moral uncertainty, a number of skeptics have argued that there is an insuperable barrier to rational "hedging" for the risk of moral error, namely the apparent incomparability of moral reasons given by rival theories like Kantianism and utilitarianism. Various general theories of intertheoretic value comparison have been proposed to meet this objection, but each suffers from apparently fatal flaws. In this paper, I propose a more modest approach that aims to identify classes of (...)
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  2. What Should We Agree on About the Repugnant Conclusion?Stephane Zuber, Nikhil Venkatesh, Torbjörn Tännsjö, Christian Tarsney, H. Orri Stefánsson, Katie Steele, Dean Spears, Jeff Sebo, Marcus Pivato, Toby Ord, Yew-Kwang Ng, Michal Masny, William MacAskill, Nicholas Lawson, Kevin Kuruc, Michelle Hutchinson, Johan E. Gustafsson, Hilary Greaves, Lisa Forsberg, Marc Fleurbaey, Diane Coffey, Susumu Cato, Clinton Castro, Tim Campbell, Mark Budolfson, John Broome, Alexander Berger, Nick Beckstead & Geir B. Asheim - 2021 - Utilitas 33 (4):379-383.
    The Repugnant Conclusion served an important purpose in catalyzing and inspiring the pioneering stage of population ethics research. We believe, however, that the Repugnant Conclusion now receives too much focus. Avoiding the Repugnant Conclusion should no longer be the central goal driving population ethics research, despite its importance to the fundamental accomplishments of the existing literature.
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  3. Future bias in action: does the past matter more when you can affect it?Andrew J. Latham, Kristie Miller, James Norton & Christian Tarsney - 2020 - Synthese 198 (12):11327-11349.
    Philosophers have long noted, and empirical psychology has lately confirmed, that most people are “biased toward the future”: we prefer to have positive experiences in the future, and negative experiences in the past. At least two explanations have been offered for this bias: belief in temporal passage and the practical irrelevance of the past resulting from our inability to influence past events. We set out to test the latter explanation. In a large survey, we find that participants exhibit significantly less (...)
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  4. Moral Uncertainty for Deontologists.Christian Tarsney - 2018 - Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 21 (3):505-520.
    Defenders of deontological constraints in normative ethics face a challenge: how should an agent decide what to do when she is uncertain whether some course of action would violate a constraint? The most common response to this challenge has been to defend a threshold principle on which it is subjectively permissible to act iff the agent's credence that her action would be constraint-violating is below some threshold t. But the threshold approach seems arbitrary and unmotivated: what would possibly determine where (...)
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  5. The Epistemic Challenge to Longtermism.Christian Tarsney - manuscript
    Longtermism holds that what we ought to do is mainly determined by effects on the far future. A natural objection is that these effects may be nearly impossible to predict -- perhaps so close to impossible that, despite the astronomical importance of the far future, the expected value of our present options is mainly determined by short-term considerations. This paper aims to precisify and evaluate (a version of) this epistemic objection. To that end, I develop two simple models for comparing (...)
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  6. Metanormative Regress: An Escape Plan.Christian Tarsney - manuscript
    How should you decide what to do when you're uncertain about basic normative principles (e.g., Kantianism vs. utilitarianism)? A natural suggestion is to follow some "second-order" norm: e.g., "comply with the first-order norm you regard as most probable" or "maximize expected choiceworthiness". But what if you're uncertain about second-order norms too -- must you then invoke some third-order norm? If so, it seems that any norm-guided response to normative uncertainty is doomed to a vicious regress. In this paper, I aim (...)
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  7. Exceeding Expectations: Stochastic Dominance as a General Decision Theory.Christian Tarsney - manuscript
    The principle that rational agents should maximize expected utility or choiceworthiness is intuitively plausible in many ordinary cases of decision-making under uncertainty. But it is less plausible in cases of extreme, low-probability risk (like Pascal's Mugging), and intolerably paradoxical in cases like the St. Petersburg and Pasadena games. In this paper I show that, under certain conditions, stochastic dominance reasoning can capture most of the plausible implications of expectational reasoning while avoiding most of its pitfalls. Specifically, given sufficient background uncertainty (...)
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  8.  87
    Normative Uncertainty and Social Choice.Christian Tarsney - 2019 - Mind 128 (512):1285-1308.
    In ‘Normative Uncertainty as a Voting Problem’, William MacAskill argues that positive credence in ordinal-structured or intertheoretically incomparable normative theories does not prevent an agent from rationally accounting for her normative uncertainties in practical deliberation. Rather, such an agent can aggregate the theories in which she has positive credence by methods borrowed from voting theory—specifically, MacAskill suggests, by a kind of weighted Borda count. The appeal to voting methods opens up a promising new avenue for theories of rational choice under (...)
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  9. Rationality and Moral Risk: A Moderate Defense of Hedging.Christian Tarsney - 2017 - Dissertation, University of Maryland
    How should an agent decide what to do when she is uncertain not just about morally relevant empirical matters, like the consequences of some course of action, but about the basic principles of morality itself? This question has only recently been taken up in a systematic way by philosophers. Advocates of moral hedging claim that an agent should weigh the reasons put forward by each moral theory in which she has positive credence, considering both the likelihood that that theory is (...)
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  10.  69
    Thank Goodness That’s Newcomb: The Practical Relevance of the Temporal Value Asymmetry.Christian Tarsney - 2017 - Analysis 77 (4):750-759.
    I describe a thought experiment in which an agent must choose between suffering a greater pain in the past or a lesser pain in the future. This case demonstrates that the ‘temporal value asymmetry’ – our disposition to attribute greater significance to future pleasures and pains than to past – can have consequences for the rationality of actions as well as attitudes. This fact, I argue, blocks attempts to vindicate the temporal value asymmetry as a useful heuristic tied to the (...)
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  11.  73
    Does a Discount Rate Measure the Costs of Climate Change?Christian Tarsney - 2017 - Economics and Philosophy 33 (3):337-365.
    I argue that the use of a social discount rate to assess the consequences of climate policy is unhelpful and misleading. I consider two lines of justification for discounting: (i) ethical arguments for a "pure rate of time preference" and (ii) economic arguments that take time as a proxy for economic growth and the diminishing marginal utility of consumption. In both cases I conclude that, given the long time horizons, distinctive uncertainties, and particular costs and benefits at stake in the (...)
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  12.  80
    Belief in Robust Temporal Passage (Probably) Does Not Explain Future-Bias.Andrew J. Latham, Kristie Miller, Christian Tarsney & Hannah Tierney - forthcoming - Philosophical Studies:1-23.
    Empirical work has lately confirmed what many philosophers have taken to be true: people are ‘biased toward the future’. All else being equal, we usually prefer to have positive experiences in the future, and negative experiences in the past. According to one hypothesis, the temporal metaphysics hypothesis, future-bias is explained either by our (tacit) beliefs about temporal metaphysics—the temporal belief hypothesis—or alternatively by our temporal phenomenology—the temporal phenomenology hypothesis. We empirically investigate a particular version of the temporal belief hypothesis according (...)
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  13.  36
    Robust Passage Phenomenology Probably Does Not Explain Future-Bias.Andrew J. Latham, Kristie Miller, Christian Tarsney & Hannah Tierney - forthcoming - Synthese.
    People are ‘biased toward the future’: all else being equal, we typically prefer to have positive experiences in the future, and negative experiences in the past. Several explanations have been suggested for this pattern of preferences. Adjudicating among these explanations can, among other things, shed light on the rationality of future-bias: For instance, if our preferences are explained by unjustified beliefs or an illusory phenomenology, we might conclude that they are irrational. This paper investigates one hypothesis, according to which future-bias (...)
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  14. Average Utilitarianism Implies Solipsistic Egoism.Christian Tarsney - manuscript
    Average utilitarianism and several related axiologies, when paired with the standard expectational theory of decision-making under risk and with reasonable empirical credences, can find their practical prescriptions overwhelmingly determined by the minuscule probability that the agent assigns to solipsism -- i.e., to the hypothesis that there is only one welfare subject in the world, viz., herself. This either (i) constitutes a reductio of these axiologies, (ii) suggests that they require bespoke decision theories, or (iii) furnishes a novel argument for ethical (...)
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  15.  95
    Non-Additive Axiologies in Large Worlds.Christian Tarsney & Teruji Thomas - manuscript
    Is the overall value of a world just the sum of values contributed by each value-bearing entity in that world? Additively separable axiologies (like total utilitarianism, prioritarianism, and critical level views) say 'yes', but non-additive axiologies (like average utilitarianism, rank-discounted utilitarianism, and variable value views) say 'no'. This distinction is practically important: additive axiologies support 'arguments from astronomical scale' which suggest (among other things) that it is overwhelmingly important for humanity to avoid premature extinction and ensure the existence of a (...)
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  16.  65
    Normative Externalism, by Brian Weatherson.Christian Tarsney - 2021 - Mind 130 (519):1018-1028.
    Normative Externalism, by WeathersonBrian. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2019. Pp. xiii + 245.
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  17.  40
    Rejecting Supererogationism.Christian Tarsney - 2019 - Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 100 (2):599-623.
    Even if I think it very likely that some morally good act is supererogatory rather than obligatory, I may nonetheless be rationally required to perform that act. This claim follows from an apparently straightforward dominance argument, which parallels Jacob Ross's argument for 'rejecting' moral nihilism. These arguments face analogous pairs of objections that illustrate general challenges for dominance reasoning under normative uncertainty, but (I argue) these objections can be largely overcome. This has practical consequences for the ethics of philanthropy -- (...)
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  18. Vive la Différence? Structural Diversity as a Challenge for Metanormative Theories.Christian J. Tarsney - 2020 - Ethics 131 (2):151-182.
    Decision-making under normative uncertainty requires an agent to aggregate the assessments of options given by rival normative theories into a single assessment that tells her what to do in light of her uncertainty. But what if the assessments of rival theories differ not just in their content but in their structure -- e.g., some are merely ordinal while others are cardinal? This paper describes and evaluates three general approaches to this "problem of structural diversity": structural enrichment, structural depletion, and multi-stage (...)
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