Sunday photoblogging: Natural History Museum

by Chris Bertram on July 30, 2023

What was I doing 10 years ago? I thought I’d look through my photoarchive from 2013:

London: Natural History Museum

Against the Repugnant Conclusion

by John Q on July 30, 2023

In my previous post on utilitarianism, I started with two crucial observations.

First, utilitarianism is a political philosophy, dealing with the question of how the resources in a community should be distributed. It’s not a system of individual ethics

Second, (this shouldn’t be necessary to state, but it is), there is no such thing as utility. It’s a theoretical construct which can be used to compare different allocations of resources, not a number in people’s heads that can be measured and added up.

Failure to accept these points is at the heart of the kind of ‘longtermism’ advocated by William McAskill and, earlier, Parfit’s Repugnant conclusion. The claim here is that the objective of utilitarians should be to maximise total utility, including people who are brought into existence as a result of our decisions. In particular, that means that it is desirable to bring children into existence who will have a miserable life, provided that no one else is made worse off, and the life is not so bad that the children in question regret being born.

As well as being intuitively unappealing, this idea makes no sense in the two main contexts in which it is relevant: families deciding how many children to have, and polities deciding whether to promote pro-natalist policies[1]

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