In­fini­ties In Ethics

TagLast edit: 25 Sep 2020 22:57 UTC by Swimmer963

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

External links

See also

On in­finite ethics

Joe Carlsmith31 Jan 2022 7:04 UTC
118 points
67 comments51 min readLW link

Big Ad­vance in In­finite Ethics

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

In­finite ethics comparisons

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

The Pas­cal’s Wager Fal­lacy Fallacy

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

Pas­cal’s Mug­ging: Tiny Prob­a­bil­ities of Vast Utilities

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

Con­trived in­finite-tor­ture sce­nar­ios: July 2010

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

Sum­mary: Sur­real Decisions

Chris_Leong27 Nov 2018 14:15 UTC
24 points
19 comments3 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
34 points
155 comments5 min readLW link
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