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Infinite Utilitarianism: More Is Always Better

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  • LAUWERS, LUC
  • VALLENTYNE, PETER

Abstract

We address the question of how finitely additive moral value theories (such as utilitarianism) should rank worlds when there are an infinite number of locations of value (people, times, etc.). In the finite case, finitely additive theories satisfy both Weak Pareto and a strong anonymity condition. In the infinite case, however, these two conditions are incompatible, and thus a question arises as to which of these two conditions should be rejected. In a recent contribution, Hamkins and Montero (2000) have argued in favor of an anonymity-like isomorphism principle and against Weak Pareto. After casting doubt on their criticism of Weak Pareto, we show how it, in combination with certain other plausible principles, generates a plausible and fairly strong principle for the infinite case. We further show that where locations are the same in all worlds, but have no natural order, this principle turns out to be equivalent to a strengthening of a principle defended by Vallentyne and Kagan (1997), and also to a weakened version of the catching-up criterion developed by Atsumi (1965) and by von Weizs cker (1965).

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by Cambridge University Press in its journal Economics and Philosophy.

Volume (Year): 20 (2004)
Issue (Month): 02 (October)
Pages: 307-330

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Handle: RePEc:cup:ecnphi:v:20:y:2004:i:02:p:307-330_00

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Cited by:
  1. Mabrouk, Mohamed, 2008. "Translation invariance when utility streams are infinite and unbounded," MPRA Paper 18523, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised 01 Oct 2009.
  2. Asheim, Geir B. & d'Aspremont, Claude & Banerjee, Kuntal, 2008. "Generalized time-invariant overtaking," PIE/CIS Discussion Paper 394, Center for Intergenerational Studies, Institute of Economic Research, Hitotsubashi University.
  3. Luc LAUWERS, 2009. "Ordering infinite utility streams comes at the cost of a non-Ramsey set," Center for Economic Studies - Discussion papers ces09.05, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Centrum voor Economische Studiën.

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