Pop­u­la­tion Ethics

TagLast edit: 18 Mar 2021 18:45 UTC by abramdemski

Population Ethics addresses the question: how should utilitarians deal with people coming in and out of existence?

For example, a classical problem in population ethics: is it overall better for a happy person to exist, if they bring down the average happiness but increase the total? Those who would answer “yes” are termed total (hedonic) utilitarians; those who would answer “no” are termed average (hedonic) utilitarians.

Note that utility is not comparable, so we cannot simply speak of “increasing average utility” vs “increasing total utility”. Hence, average utilitarianism vs total utilitarianism is not a well-defined distinction in the abstract; we have to specify e.g. hedonic utilitarianism before this distinction becomes well-defined (because average vs total happiness is a meaningful distinction).

However, although preference-utilitarians cannot necessarily make a meaningful distinction between averaging and totaling, they do not escape population-ethics dilemmas. It’s still a fair question: when is it overall preferable to bring someone into existence (or for someone to pass out of existence)? What can/​should ethics say about this?

Dem­i­na­tal­ist To­tal Utilitarianism

Vanessa Kosoy16 Apr 2020 15:53 UTC
51 points
49 comments5 min readLW link

Pop­u­la­tion Ethics Shouldn’t Be About Max­i­miz­ing Utility

Ghatanathoah18 Mar 2013 2:35 UTC
4 points
46 comments14 min readLW link

Ex­am­ple pop­u­la­tion ethics: or­dered dis­counted utility

Stuart_Armstrong11 Mar 2019 16:10 UTC
14 points
13 comments1 min readLW link

Two kinds of pop­u­la­tion ethics, and Cur­rent-Pop­u­la­tion Utilitarianism

AlexMennen17 Jun 2014 22:26 UTC
12 points
21 comments4 min readLW link

A (small) cri­tique of to­tal utilitarianism

Stuart_Armstrong26 Jun 2012 12:36 UTC
47 points
237 comments11 min readLW link

It’s hard to use util­ity max­i­miza­tion to jus­tify cre­at­ing new sen­tient beings

dynomight19 Oct 2020 19:45 UTC
10 points
14 comments4 min readLW link

Against neu­tral­ity about cre­at­ing happy lives

Joe Carlsmith15 Mar 2021 1:55 UTC
36 points
6 comments11 min readLW link

Em­brac­ing the “sadis­tic” conclusion

Stuart_Armstrong13 Feb 2014 10:30 UTC
27 points
41 comments2 min readLW link

Com­par­ing Utilities

abramdemski14 Sep 2020 20:56 UTC
58 points
31 comments17 min readLW link

In favour of to­tal util­i­tar­i­anism over average

casebash22 Dec 2015 5:07 UTC
0 points
15 comments4 min readLW link

Aging re­search and pop­u­la­tion ethics

emanuele ascani28 Apr 2019 7:21 UTC
15 points
3 comments6 min readLW link
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