Top News, Articles, and Interviews in Philosophy

New Introduction to Population Ethics

I recently took over as the lead editor for utilitarianism.net, where we've just published a new introduction to population ethics.  Check it out!  (And feel free to email me with any suggestions or corrections.)My favourite bit was translating Johan Gustafsson's critical range view into the colloquial idiom of "meh" lives and "value blur" (with thanks to Helen for suggesting the term 'meh').  Here's a selection, minus footnotes and illustrations...Adding an individual makes an outcome better to the extent that their wellbeing exceeds the upper end of a critical range, and makes an outcome worse to the extent that their wellbeing falls below the lower limit of the critical range. [...]What about lives that fall within the critical range? Life within this range may strike us as meh: neither good nor bad, but also not precisely equal to zero in value, either. After all, some meh lives (those toward the upper end of the range) are better than others (those toward the lower end), so it cannot be that adding any life in this range results in an equally valuable outcome. Instead, the outcome’s value must be incomparable or on a par with that of the prior state: neither better, nor worse, nor precisely equal in value. Note that it may be better to add an upper-range meh life to the world than to add a lower-range meh life, even though adding either life is merely "meh", or results in an outcome that is incomparable with the world in which neither life is [More]

Stable Actualism and Asymmetries of Regret

Jack Spencer has a cool new paper, 'The Procreative Asymmetry and the Impossibility of Elusive Permission' (forthcoming in Phil Studies).  I found reading it to be really helpful for clarifying my thoughts on the procreative asymmetry.Back in 'Rethinking the Asymmetry' (CJP, 2017), I argued for two main claims: (i) we have reason to bring good lives into existence, whereas "strong asymmetry" intuitions to the contrary can be explained away; and (ii) the intuition that we should prioritize existing lives is better accommodated by a form of modest partiality towards the (antecedently) actual than by Roberts' Variabilism (or any other strong-asymmetry-implying view).  To avoid incorrectly permitting miserable lives to be brought into existence, I argued, actualist partiality should be supplemented with a principle proscribing the predictably regrettable.To illustrate (borrowing the evocative names from Jack's examples), suppose that Joy will be happy if created, and Misery will be miserable if created.  We can coherently discount Joy's interest in coming to exist, without this consequently generating new grounds for regret (though if we happen to bring her into existence, we may subsequently be extra-happy about this). By contrast, if we create Misery due to discounting her interest in non-existence, her new status as actual undermines the very basis for our prior discounting.  Our decision, in this case, is predictably regrettable, in a way [More]

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