Longtermism, Aggregation, and Catastrophic Risk


Advocates of longtermism point out that interventions which focus on improving the prospects of people in the very far future will, in expectation, bring about a significant amount of good. Indeed, in expectation, such long-term interventions bring about far more good than their short-term counterparts. As such, longtermists claim we have compelling moral reason to prefer long-term interventions. In this paper, I show that longtermism is in conflict with plausible deontic scepticism about aggregation. I do so by demonstrating that, from both an ex-ante and ex-post perspective, longtermist interventions – and, in particular, those which aim to mitigate catastrophic risk – typically generate extremely weak claims of assistance from future people.

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Emma J. Curran
Rutgers - New Brunswick


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