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Author(s): Nick Bostrom
Subject(s): Philosophy
Published by: Addleton Academic Publishers
Keywords: aggregative; consequentialism; ethics; infinite; cosmology; value

Summary/Abstract: Aggregative consequentialism and several other popular moral theories are threatened with paralysis: when coupled with some plausible assumptions, they seem to imply that it is always ethically indifferent what you do. Modern cosmology teaches that the world might well contain an infinite number of happy and sad people and other candidate value-bearing locations. Aggregative ethics implies that such a world contains an infinite amount of positive value and an infinite amount of negative value. You can affect only a finite amount of good or bad. In standard cardinal arithmetic, an infinite quantity is unchanged by the addition or subtraction of any finite quantity. So it appears you cannot change the value of the world. Modifications of aggregationism aimed at resolving the paralysis are only partially effective and cause severe side effects, including problems of “fanaticism”, “distortion”, and erosion of the intuitions that originally motivated the theory. Is the infinitarian challenge fatal?

  • Issue Year: 2011
  • Issue No: 10
  • Page Range: 9-59
  • Page Count: 51
  • Language: English