In­fini­ties In Ethics

TagLast edit: 28 Sep 2012 13:27 UTC by Kaj_Sotala

Infinities in ethics pose some difficult problems. For example, if the universe is infinite, there are already infinite numbers of good and bad things. Adding or removing finitely many of them leaves infinitely many of both. This means aggregative consequentialist theories (those that maximize the sum of the values of individual structures) will be indifferent between any acts with merely finite effects. If you save the whales, there will be infinitely many whales, but if you don’t save the whales, there will also be infinitely many whales.

Nick Bostrom wrote a paper discussing various possible solutions to this problem of “infinitarian paralysis” (as well as the “fanaticism” problem of theories that would sacrifice anything for a small chance of an infinite payoff). The solutions fall into three classes:

The best-known use of infinity in ethics is probably Pascal’s wager, which has a finite variant in Pascal’s mugging.

Blog posts

See also

On in­finite ethics

Joe Carlsmith31 Jan 2022 7:04 UTC
124 points
70 comments51 min readLW link1 review

The Pas­cal’s Wager Fal­lacy Fallacy

Eliezer Yudkowsky18 Mar 2009 0:30 UTC
44 points
128 comments3 min readLW link

Con­trived in­finite-tor­ture sce­nar­ios: July 2010

PlaidX23 Jul 2010 23:54 UTC
31 points
139 comments1 min readLW link

Sum­mary: Sur­real Decisions

Chris_Leong27 Nov 2018 14:15 UTC
29 points
19 comments3 min readLW link

Big Ad­vance in In­finite Ethics

bwest28 Nov 2017 15:10 UTC
27 points
13 comments5 min readLW link

In­finite Ethics: In­finite Problems

omnizoid16 Aug 2023 2:44 UTC
−2 points
25 comments23 min readLW link

Non­stan­dard anal­y­sis in ethics

Alok Singh12 Jan 2023 5:58 UTC
−1 points
0 comments78 min readLW link

In­finite ethics comparisons

Stuart_Armstrong6 May 2017 19:24 UTC
1 point
2 comments3 min readLW link

Pas­cal’s Mug­ging: Tiny Prob­a­bil­ities of Vast Utilities

Eliezer Yudkowsky19 Oct 2007 23:37 UTC
105 points
353 comments4 min readLW link

[Question] Math­e­mat­i­cal mod­els of Ethics

Victors8 Mar 2023 17:40 UTC
4 points
2 comments1 min readLW link

In­fra-Bayesi­anism nat­u­rally leads to the mono­ton­ic­ity prin­ci­ple, and I think this is a problem

matolcsid26 Apr 2023 21:39 UTC
17 points
6 comments4 min readLW link

On the im­por­tance of tak­ing limits: In­finite Spheres of Utility

aspera12 Oct 2013 21:18 UTC
35 points
58 comments8 min readLW link

Model Uncer­tainty, Pas­calian Rea­son­ing and Utilitarianism

multifoliaterose14 Jun 2011 3:19 UTC
35 points
155 comments5 min readLW link

Shock Level 5: Big Wor­lds and Mo­dal Realism

Roko25 May 2010 23:19 UTC
37 points
158 comments4 min readLW link

[Question] How could the uni­verse be in­finitely large?

amarai13 Jul 2022 13:45 UTC
0 points
8 comments1 min readLW link

Utility In Faith?

UtilityMonster9 Oct 2022 17:49 UTC
10 points
0 comments5 min readLW link
No comments.