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Classical (Generalized) Utilitarianism and the Repugnant Conclusion

Author

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  • Leslie M. Shiell

    () (Department of Economics, University of Ottawa)

Abstract

Both classical and critical-level generalized utilitarianism (CGU and CLGU) exhibit the repugnant conclusion on an unrestricted choice set when repugnance is defined in terms of the critical level. However, contrary to common belief, the repugnant conclusion is not an inherent feature of utilitarian population principles. Rather, it results from the interaction of the principles with certain choice sets. Choice sets can be assessed in terms of their realism, defined as conformity with universal properties of physics, biology and preferences. It is shown that these properties entail a particular structure of choice set on which CGU and CLGU do not exhibit the repugnant conclusion.

Suggested Citation

  • Leslie M. Shiell, 2004. "Classical (Generalized) Utilitarianism and the Repugnant Conclusion," Working Papers 0404E, University of Ottawa, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:ott:wpaper:0404e
    as

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    File URL: http://sciencessociales.uottawa.ca/economics/sites/socialsciences.uottawa.ca.economics/files/0404E.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    variable-population social choice; utilitarianism; repugnant conclusion;

    JEL classification:

    • D63 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Equity, Justice, Inequality, and Other Normative Criteria and Measurement
    • D71 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Social Choice; Clubs; Committees; Associations

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