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There is a rich tradition within game theory, decision theory, economics, and philosophy correlating practical rationality with impartiality, and spatial and temporal neutrality. I argue that in some cases we should give priority to people over both times and places, and to times over places. I also show how three plausible dominance principles regarding people, places, and times conflict, so that we cannot accept all three. However, I argue that there are some cases where we should give priority to times over people, suggesting that there is impersonal value to the distribution of high quality life over different times.
Many philosophers have discussed problems of additive aggregation across lives. In this article, I suggest that anti-additive aggregationist principles sometimes apply within lives, as well as between lives, and hence that we should reject a widely accepted conception of individual self-interest. The article has eight sections. Section I is introductory. Section II offers a general account of aggregation. Section III presents two examples of problems of additive aggregation across lives: Derek Parfit's Repugnant Conclusion, and my Lollipops for Life CaseSection IV suggests that many may have misdiagnosed the source and scope of anti-additive aggregationist considerations, due to the influence of Rawls's and Nozick's claims about the separateness of individuals. Accordingly, many leave Sidgwick's conception of self-interest—which incorporates an additive aggregationist approach to valuing individual lives—unchallenged. Section V suggests that the separateness of individuals may have led some to conflate the issues of compensation and moral balancing. Section VI argues that an additive aggregationist approach is often deeply implausible for determining the overall value of a life. Section VII discusses a Single Life Repugnant Conclusion, first considered by McTaggart. Section VIII concludes with a summary, and a brief indication of work remaining.
This paper aims to illuminate some issues in the equality, priority, or what debate. I characterize egalitarianism and prioritarianism, respond to the view that we should care about sufficiency or compassion rather than equality or priority, discuss the levelling down objection, and illustrate the significance of the distinction between prioritarianism and egalitarianism, establishing that the former is no substitute for the latter. In addition, I respond to Bertil Tungodden's views regarding the Slogan, the levelling down objection, the Pareto Principle, leximin, the principle of personal good, strict moderate egalitarianism, the Hammond Equity Condition, the intersection approach, and non-aggregative reasoning.
Can a society be just if it ignores the plight of other societies? Does it matter whether those societies are contemporaries? Moral “purists” are likely to assume that the answer to these questions must be “no.” Relying on familiar claims about impartiality or universalizability, the purist is likely to assert that the dictates of justice have no bounds, that they extend with equal strength across space and time. On this view, if, for example, justice requires us to maximize the expectations of the worst-off group in our society, it also requires us to maximize the expectations of the worst-off group in any society, at any time, so far as it is in our power to do so. Is such a position plausible? Is it more plausible than alternative positions? I am unsure about the answers to these questions, but both the questions, and the answers, are important. Clearly, the nature and extent of a just society's obligations will vary markedly depending on the scope of the correct principles of justice.
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