Relevance and Non-consequentialist Aggregation

Utilitas 26 (4):385-408 (2014)
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Interpersonal aggregation involves the combining and weighing of benefits and losses to multiple individuals in the course of determining what ought to be done. Most consequentialists embrace thoroughgoing interpersonal aggregation, the view that any large benefit to each of a few people can be morally outweighed by allocating any smaller benefit to each of many others, so long as this second group is sufficiently large. This would permit letting one person die in order to cure some number of mild headaches instead. Most non-consequentialists reject thoroughgoing interpersonal aggregation despite also believing it is permissible to let one person die in order to prevent many cases of paraplegia instead. Non-consequentialists defend this asymmetry largely on the basis of intuition, and some rely on the notion of relevance to formalize the grounding intuitions. This article seeks to clarify and strengthen the non-consequentialist notion of relevance by engaging with three objections to it

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J. Paul Kelleher
University of Wisconsin, Madison


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