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Stable Actualism and Asymmetries of Regret

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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 that casts doubt on the coherence of the moral reasoning that led to it.  So we should instead regard interests (like Misery's) in avoiding bad existence to be not coherently discountable.  This places an important constraint on any kind of actualist partiality, or so I argued.In his new paper, Jack nicely expands upon this sort of view.  According to his Stability principle, "If p makes it the case that an agent is permitted to choose a, then p would . . .

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