Can the Person Affecting Restriction Solve the Problems in Population Ethics?

Part of the International Library of Ethics, Law, and the New Medicine book series (LIME, volume 35)


The person-affecting restriction, in its slogan form, states that an outcome can be better than another only if it is better for someone. It has a strong intuitive appeal and several theorists have suggested that it avoids certain counterintuitive implications in population ethics. At the same time, the restriction has highly counterintuitive implications and yields non-transitive orderings in some nonidentity cases. Many theorists have taken this criticism to be decisive. Recently, however, there have been some reformulations of the restriction, suggesting that the restriction survives this “old” criticism. This paper investigates the viability of those reformulations, which are versions of “Comparativism,” and argues that most of them either have counterintuitive implications or are extensionally equivalent with impersonal theories, but that “Soft Comparativism” seems to have an advantage over impersonal theories.


Person-affecting restriction Population ethics The repugnant conclusion Broome Parfit Temkin Comparativism Non-transitive orderings 


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyStockholm University, Swedish Collegium for Advanced StudySweden

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