I asked EA Forum readers here about their confidence in the Repugnant Conclusion and its 3 premises (you can still fill the survey and edit/complete your previous answers here). The median and mean answers[1] for the probability of each being true, as well as the product between the probabilities of the premises given by the people who assigned a probability to the Repugnant Conclusion, are in the table below. For all propositions, the minimum and geometric mean were 0, and the maximum 1. You can find the full answers here.

Proposition (acronym) (number of answers)Probability of being true
Median (%)Mean (%)
Dominance addition (DA) (14)85.571.6
Non-anti-egalitarianism (NAE) (14)90.076.6
Transitivity (T) (14)98.087.0
Repugnant Conclusion (RC) (6[2])27.537.5
Premises of the Repugnant Conclusion (DA*NAE*T) (6)27.536.7

My quite tentative conclusions based on this very small sample are as follows:

  • According to both the median and mean answers, transitivity is thought to be the most solid proposition, followed by non-anti-egalitarianism, dominance addition, and finally the Repugnant Conclusion.
  • Given the similarity between the mean and median answers of the last 2 rows, the probability assigned to the Repugnant Conclusion is consistent with the probabilities given to its premises.
  1. ^

     As of 8 October 2022.

  2. ^

     Unfortunately, I only included later the question about the Repugnant Conclusion.

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Sorted by Click to highlight new comments since: Today at 2:09 PM

I tried to answer the survey before reading the rest, but I have no idea what "dominance addition" or "non-anti-egalitarianism" mean. Can you maybe add explanations? (I've read a dozen explanations of the repugnant conclusion and never encountered these terms)

Hi Guy,

Thanks for asking! You can find the definitions of the premises (and why they imply the Repugnant Conclusion) in the post I introduced the survey. Here they are:

  • Dominance addition. “If you make everyone in a given population better off while at the same time adding to the world people with positive wellbeing, then you have made the world better”.
  • Non-anti-egalitarianism. “If we compare two populations with the same number of people, and the second population has both greater average and total wellbeing, and that wellbeing is perfectly equally distributed, then that second population is better than the first”.
  • Transitivity. “If one world is better than a second world, which itself is better than a third, then the first world is better than the third”.