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Does the Total Principle have any Repugnant Implications?

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Abstract:

On the Total Principle, the best state of affairs (ceteris paribus) is the one with the greatest net sum of welfare value. Parfit rejects this principle, because he believes that it implies the Repugnant Conclusion, the conclusion that for any large population of people, all with lives well worth living, there will be some much larger population whose existence would be better, even though its members all have lives that are only barely worth living. Recently, however, a number of philosophers have suggested that the Total Principle does not imply the Repugnant Conclusion provided that a certain axiological view (namely, the ‘Discontinuity View’) is correct. Nevertheless, as I point out, there are three different versions of the Repugnant Conclusion, and it appears that the Total Principle will imply two of the three even if the Discontinuity View is correct. I then go on to argue that one of the two remaining versions turns out not to be repugnant after all. Second, I argue that the last remaining version is not, as it turns out, implied by the Total Principle. Thus, my arguments show that the Total Principle has no repugnant implications.

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Philosophy & Religious Studies, College of Charleston, Charleston SC 29424-0001, USADportmore@aol.com

Publication date: March 1, 1999

bpl/rati/1999/00000012/00000001/art00078
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