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Topics in Population Ethics

Dissertation, University of Oxford (2016)

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  1. The impossibility of a satisfactory population prospect axiology (independently of Finite Fine-Grainedness).Elliott Thornley - 2021 - Philosophical Studies 178 (11):3671-3695.
    Arrhenius’s impossibility theorems purport to demonstrate that no population axiology can satisfy each of a small number of intuitively compelling adequacy conditions. However, it has recently been pointed out that each theorem depends on a dubious assumption: Finite Fine-Grainedness. This assumption states that there exists a finite sequence of slight welfare differences between any two welfare levels. Denying Finite Fine-Grainedness makes room for a lexical population axiology which satisfies all of the compelling adequacy conditions in each theorem. Therefore, Arrhenius’s theorems (...)
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  • Some Possibilities in Population Axiology.Teruji Thomas - 2018 - Mind 127 (507):807-832.
    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 (...)
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  • Spectrum Arguments and Hypersensitivity.Theron Pummer - 2018 - Philosophical Studies 175 (7):1729-1744.
    Larry Temkin famously argues that what he calls spectrum arguments yield strong reason to reject Transitivity, according to which the ‘all-things-considered better than’ relation is transitive. Spectrum arguments do reveal that the conjunctions of independently plausible claims are inconsistent with Transitivity. But I argue that there is very strong independent reason to reject such conjunctions of claims, and thus that the fact that they are inconsistent with Transitivity does not yield strong reason to reject Transitivity.
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  • An Intrapersonal Addition Paradox.Jacob M. Nebel - 2019 - Ethics 129 (2):309-343.
    I present a new argument for the repugnant conclusion. The core of the argument is a risky, intrapersonal analogue of the mere addition paradox. The argument is important for three reasons. First, some solutions to Parfit’s original puzzle do not obviously generalize to the intrapersonal puzzle in a plausible way. Second, it raises independently important questions about how to make decisions under uncertainty for the sake of people whose existence might depend on what we do. And, third, it suggests various (...)
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  • Johnston Versus Johnston.Kacper Kowalczyk - 2022 - Synthese 200 (2):1-19.
    Personites are like continuant people but shorter-lived. Johnston argues that personites do not exist since otherwise personites would have the same moral status as persons, which is untenable. I argue that Johnston’s arguments fail. To do that I propose an alternative way to understand intrinsicness and I clarify the meaning of reductionism about persons. I also argue that a plausible ethical theory is possible even if personites have the same moral status as persons. My arguments draw on Johnston’s earlier debate (...)
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  • 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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  • 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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