Transfinitely Transitive Value

Philosophical Quarterly 72 (1):108-134 (2021)
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This paper develops transfinite extensions of transitivity and acyclicity in the context of population ethics. They are used to argue that it is better to add good lives, worse to add bad lives, and equally good to add neutral lives, where a life's value is understood as personal value. These conclusions rule out a number of theories of population ethics, feed into an argument for the repugnant conclusion, and allow us to reduce different-number comparisons to same-number ones. Challenges to these arguments are addressed, including the issue of comparing existence and non-existence in terms of personal value, the possibility of minimal quanta of time and life, and the meaningfulness of measuring closeness between outcomes with different population sizes. An asymmetry is uncovered between transfinite cycles of worseness and betterness, supporting a version of the weak procreative asymmetry. Transfinite transitivity principles are also favourably compared to the better-known principles of continuity.

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Kacper Kowalczyk
University College London


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