Top News, Articles, and Interviews in Philosophy

Guest Post: 'Save the Five: Meeting Taurek’s Challenge'

[My thanks to Zach Barnett for writing the following guest post...]At its best, philosophy encourages us to challenge our deepest and most passionately held convictions. No paper does this more forcefully than John Taurek’s “Should the Numbers Count?” Taurek’s paper challenges us to justify the importance of numbers in ethics.Six people are in trouble. We can rescue five of them or just the remaining one. What should we do? This may not seem like a difficult question. Other things equal, you might think, we should save the five. This way, fewer people will die. Taurek rejects this reasoning. He denies that the greater number should be given priority. In effect, Taurek challenges us to convince him that the numbers should count. Can we meet his challenge?You might be pessimistic. Even if you yourself agree that the numbers do count, you might worry that... just as it’s hopeless to try to argue the Global Skeptic out of Global Skepticism... it’s equally hopeless to try to argue someone like Taurek, a Numbers Skeptic, out of Numbers Skepticism. But that’s what I’ll try to do.Let’s start by examining some different forms that Numbers Skepticism can take. Some Numbers Skeptics are driven by considerations of fairness. Often, they hold that we are required to randomize, to ensure that everyone is given an appropriate chance of rescue. For example, Taurek himself suggests flipping a coin to decide whom to save. Here are six human beings. I can empathize with each of [More]

Guest Post: The Problem of Large Distances in Value Holism

My thanks to long-time reader Evan Dawson-Baglien for contributing the following guest post on 'The Problem of Large Distances in Value Holism':* * *Value holism in population ethics appeals to a number of strong moral intuitions that human beings possess. By allowing one to reject the principle of Mere Addition, it in turn allows one to reject the Repugnant Conclusion. It also allows rejection of smaller-scale versions of the Repugnant Conclusion which are perhaps even more repugnant, such as the idea that it is morally neutral to kill someone and replace them with a new person whose life will contain the same amount of utility as the first person’s remaining years.  However, value holism also conflicts with strong intuitions about the relevance of distant events to the creation of new people.  It seems strange to say that we need to have fewer children if we somehow discovered that there was a utopia beyond the light cone of our universe, or that the correctness of the Many Worlds Theory of quantum mechanics might have some bearing on the question in either direction. One solution that immediately springs to mind is to limit the contributory value of distant people and events in some way.  If the vast universe is divided into “blocks,” and only people and events in a single block have contributory value towards each other, impossibly distant events are no longer relevant to the value of local world as a whole.  It is important to find a non-arbitrary [More]

Philosopher Spotlight: Eden Lin

I'm delighted that Eden Lin agreed to contribute the following post to my "philosopher spotlight" series.  Enjoy!* * *Most of my work has focused on the normative ethics of well-beingor welfare, which investigates (i) what counts as a life that is going well or badly for the individual whose life it is, (ii) what determines how well or badly someone’s life is going, and (iii) what things are good or bad for individuals in the most basic way.Theories of well-being typically purport to identify the basic goods and bads—the kinds of things that it is ultimately in or against an individual’s interests to possess and whose presence in a life makes it go well or badly. Pluralistictheories of well-being, on which there are either a plurality of basic goods or a plurality of basic bads, have been a recurring theme in my work. I argue that the correct theory of well-being is a pluralistic theory in “Pluralism about Well-Being” (Philosophical Perspectives, 2014), and I propose a particular way of understanding the distinction between pluralistic and monistic theories in “Monism and Pluralism” (The Routledge Handbook of Philosophy of Well-Being, 2016). In “The Subjective List Theory of Well-Being” (Australasian Journal of Philosophy, 2016), I argue that subjectivistsabout welfare, who claim that how well things are going for someone is entirely a matter of how satisfied their favorable attitudes are, have good reasons to abandon the monistic theories that they have [More]

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