Asymmetric population axiology: deliberative neutrality delivered
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Two related asymmetries have been discussed in relation to the ethics of creating new lives: First, we seem to have strong moral reason to avoid creating lives that are not worth living, but no moral reason to create lives that are worth living. Second, we seem to have strong moral reason to improve the wellbeing of existing lives, but, again, no moral reason to create lives that are worth living. Both asymmetries have proven very difficult to account for in any coherent moral framework. I propose an impersonal population axiology to underpin the asymmetries, which sidesteps the problematic issue of whether or not people can be harmed or benefited by creation or non-creation. This axiology yields perfect asymmetry from a deliberative perspective, in terms of expected value. The axiology also yields substantial asymmetry for large and realistic populations in terms of their actual value, beyond deliberative relevance.
KeywordsIntuition of neutrality Person-affecting view Population axiology Procreation Repugnant conclusion The asymmetry
The core aspects of the view developed in this paper were first presented at a workshop on Climate change policy after Copenhagen, in Uppsala in February, 2010. Versions have since been presented at the philosophy departments in Uppsala and Umeå, as well as at the ISUS conference in Yokohama 2014. I am grateful for the feedback received. Lars Lindblom and Niklas Möller provided helpful criticism of an early draft. Per Algander, Erik Carlson and Stephen Wilkinson each did the same for two separate drafts. My wife Camilla Grill asked helpful, probing questions based on my many animated explanations. Last but certainly not least, a reviewer for this journal provided very helpful comments.
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