Utilitarian population ethics: a survey
AbstractThis essay is a survey of utilitarian criteria aimed at guiding what Parfit (1984) called Different Number Choices (i.e. choices affecting both people’s number and identities). The emphasis is laid on two aspects of those criteria: their ethical foundations and their implications. Our analysis starts with total, average and critical-level utilitarianisms, against which numerous criticisms, such as Parfit’s Repugnant Conclusion and Mere Addition Paradox, were formulated, so that alternative social welfare criteria, as the ones developed by Hurka (1983) and Ng (1986), might seem appealing. However, those criteria are not fully satisfactory, and, as most criteria considered here, they do not stand up to Naverson’s (1967) critique, according to which social welfare cannot be increased or reduced if no existing person is affected. The difficulties resulting from taking Naverson’s critique into account – and thus from considering the Actual Problem rather than the Genesis Problem – are then discussed. It is concluded that utilitarian population ethics might reach an impasse, which might be regarded either as resulting from contradicting intuitions, or as an illustration of utilitarianism’s own limits. But those limits would be faced by any other consequences-based ethical theory in front of Different Number Choices.
Download InfoIf you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.
Bibliographic InfoPaper provided by Centre de Recherche en Economie Publique et de la Population (CREPP) (Research Center on Public and Population Economics) HEC-Management School, University of Liège in its series CREPP Working Papers with number 0303.
Date of creation: 2003
Date of revision:
Contact details of provider:
Postal: Boulevard du Rectorat, 7, Batiment 31, boite 39, 4000 Liege
Phone: + 32 (0) 4 366 31 08
Fax: + 32 (0) 4 366 31 06
Web page: http://www2.ulg.ac.be/crepp/
More information through EDIRC
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:
- Ng, Yew-Kwang, 1986. "Social criteria for evaluating population change: An alternative to the Blackorby-Donaldson criterion," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 29(3), pages 375-381, April.
- Ng, Yew-Kwang, 1989. "What Should We Do About Future Generations?," Economics and Philosophy, Cambridge University Press, vol. 5(02), pages 235-253, October.
For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Mathieu Lefebvre).
If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.