Population axiology

Philosophy Compass 12 (11):e12442 (2017)
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Population axiology is the study of the conditions under which one state of affairs is better than another, when the states of affairs in ques- tion may differ over the numbers and the identities of the persons who ever live. Extant theories include totalism, averagism, variable value theories, critical level theories, and “person-affecting” theories. Each of these the- ories is open to objections that are at least prima facie serious. A series of impossibility theorems shows that this is no coincidence: it can be proved, for various sets of prima facie intuitively compelling desiderata, that no axiology can simultaneously satisfy all the desiderata on the list. One’s choice of population axiology appears to be a choice of which intuition one is least unwilling to give up.

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Hilary Greaves
Oxford University


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