29 economists and philosophers, including leading researchers published today in Utilitas: “avoiding the Repugnant Conclusion is not a necessary condition for a minimally adequate... approach to population ethics.” The link at the top of this post is to my own summary of the article and how we reached it, posted at Medium.
Population ethics asks how to evaluate policies and social trends that change the size of the global population. For decades, research has focused on whether to accept “the Repugnant Conclusion.” The Repugnant Conclusion is a hypothetical claim about how to compare populations of well-off people against imaginable, enormous populations of worse-off people. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy explains the Repugnant Conclusion and calls it “one of the cardinal challenges of modern ethics”. In a new publication in the journal Utilitas (link to open access paper), 29 philosophers, economists, and demographers agree: “avoiding the Repugnant Conclusion should no longer be the central goal driving population ethics research.”
The collaborators come from different institutes, continents, and academic disciplines. They also come from different perspectives. Their statement emphasizes that they came to their agreement for different reasons. Some think the Repugnant Conclusion is true. Others are unsure, but think it would be no big deal if true, or just one among many factors to consider. Others coauthors argue that the Repugnant Conclusion makes no sense to begin with.
Population ethics “is not simply an academic exercise, and we should not let it be governed by undue attention to one consideration.”
The collaborators conclude with a hope that population ethics will one day make progress beyond the debates and questions of today: “Perhaps someday the correct approach to axiology, social welfare, or population ethics will be agreed upon among experts. If so, we do not know whether the approach used will entail the Repugnant Conclusion. We should keep our minds open.”
Contact: Dean Spears. firstname.lastname@example.org
Citation: Zuber, et al. (2021) Utilitas (link)