Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Home
Hostname: page-component-55597f9d44-qcsxw Total loading time: 0.203 Render date: 2022-08-15T07:25:41.386Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "shouldUseShareProductTool": true, "shouldUseHypothesis": true, "isUnsiloEnabled": true, "useRatesEcommerce": false, "useNewApi": true } hasContentIssue true

The Repugnant Conclusion

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 January 2020

Bill Anglin*
Affiliation:
University of British Columbia

Extract

On an act utilitarian view it is morally permissible if not obligatory to choose to perform an action which contributes as much as any other action to the total happiness (utility) of all those capable of enjoying happiness. As the view has just been stated, however, there is some question of how we are to understand the phrase “all those capable of enjoying happiness”. For even leaving aside the possibility that animals or spirits might be included, there is still the matter of the size of the population of humans “capable of enjoying happiness”. Furthermore, among our ethical decisions themselves are decisions which would cause a decrease or increase in population and which in perhaps even more specific ways determine the applicability of this phrase “all those capable of enjoying happiness”. According to the socalled classical or total utilitarian principle, the phrase in question is understood as describing some population whose existence will enable one to maximize the net amount of happiness. For on the classical principle what one is obligated to do is simply to maximize net happiness.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © The Authors 1977

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)

References

1 Derek Parfit, “Overpopulation, Part I” (unpublished manuscript). Note that the classical principle does not yield the Repugnant Conclusion in every case. For as L. W. Sumner has pointed out in his paper “Morality and the Production of Life” (unpublished manuscript), a couple (or a population) may find that they can maximize happiness not by reproducing in great numbers but only by reproducing in small numbers and using most of their energies to do medical research or to create lasting works of art or some such thing. Thus it is not as though the classical principle makes a virtue out of mere breeding.

2 Cf. Sikora, R. I.Utilitarianism: the Classical Principle and the Average Principle”. Canadian journal of Philosophy 5 (1975): 412.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

3 This point is due to R. I. Sikora.

4 Narveson, JanMoral Problems of Population”. Monist 57 (1973): 80.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

5 Narveson, Jan defends the Given Population View in his “Utilitarianism and New Generations” (Mind 76 (1967): 6272)CrossRefGoogle Scholar and Peter Singer adopts a version of it in his paper “A Utilitarian Population Policy” (in Ethics and Population, ed. Michael Bayles).

6 Note the possibility of being obligated to produce some very unhappy extra people (e.g. circus freaks) in order to maximize the happiness of the given people. Cf. Peter Singer, “A Utilitarian Population Policy”, and R. I. Sikora, “Utilitarianism: the Classical Principle and the Average Principle”, section IV.

7 R. I. Sikora, section III.

8 Cf. Smart, J.J. C. and Williams, Bernard Utilitarianism: For and Against (London, 1973) p. 42.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

6
Cited by

Save article to Kindle

To save this article to your Kindle, first ensure coreplatform@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

The Repugnant Conclusion
Available formats
×

Save article to Dropbox

To save this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you used this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Dropbox account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

The Repugnant Conclusion
Available formats
×

Save article to Google Drive

To save this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you used this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Google Drive account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

The Repugnant Conclusion
Available formats
×
×

Reply to: Submit a response

Please enter your response.

Your details

Please enter a valid email address.

Conflicting interests

Do you have any conflicting interests? *