Acta Analytica

, Volume 28, Issue 1, pp 31–48 | Cite as

How Lives Measure Up

Original Article


The quality of a life is typically understood as a function of the actual goods and bads in it, that is, its actual value. Likewise, the value of a population is typically taken to be a function of the actual value of the lives in it. We introduce an alternative understanding of life quality: adjusted value. A life’s adjusted value is a function of its actual value and its ideal value (the best value it could have had). The concept of adjusted value is useful for at least three reasons. First, it fits our judgments about how well lives are going. Second, it allows us to avoid what we call False Equivalence, an error related to the non-identity problem. Third, when we use adjusted value as an input for calculating the value of a population, we can avoid two puzzles that Derek Parfit calls the “Repugnant Conclusion” and the “Mere Addition Paradox.”


Quality of life Value Population ethics Non-identity problem Repugnant conclusion Mere addition paradox Derek Parfit 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of Wisconsin-MadisonMadisonUSA
  2. 2.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of South CarolinaColumbiaUSA

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