Too Easy, Too Good, Too Late?

Philosophers' Imprint 23 (1) (2023)
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Plausibly, one important part of a good life is doing work that makes a contribution, or a positive difference to the world. In this paper, however, I explore contribution pessimism, the view that people will not always have adequate opportunities for making contributions. I distinguish between three interestingly different and at least initially plausible reasons why this view might be true: in slogan form, things might become too easy, they might become too good, or we might be too late. Now, one response to these problems might be to deliberately attempt to undo them. However, I claim that this solution is intuitively misguided, and argue that explaining this supports a holistic approach to the value of contributions. Finally, I argue that if contribution pessimism is correct, it could provide an explanation of some widely held intuitions about issues in population ethics, with implications about the practical issue of how much priority we should give to addressing risks of human extinction.

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Alexander Dietz
University of Southern California (PhD)


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