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Setting Health-Care PrioritiesWhat Ethical Theories Tell Us$
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Torbjörn Tännsjö

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780190946883

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: July 2019

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190946883.001.0001

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Population Ethics

Population Ethics

(p.71) 7 Population Ethics
Setting Health-Care Priorities

Torbjörn Tännsjö

Oxford University Press

The three most promising theories of distributive justice are discussed in the context of population ethics. They all allow for what has been called the repugnant conclusion (i.e. the conclusion that some world, the Z-world, with an enormous population of persons living a life just worth living, is preferable to a world with ten billion extremely happy persons (the A-world). Utilitarianism implies the repugnant conclusion. It urges us to move from the A-world to the Z-world. It is different with the maximin/leximin theory and egalitarianism. They are person-affecting moralities. They refer to actual persons. These theories do not urge us to move to from the A-world to the Z-world but they allow for such a move. Does this spell problem for the theories? It does not, it is argued. The repugnant conclusion is after all acceptable. It is shown how the intuition that the Z world is worse than the A world tends to go away when submitted to cognitive psycho-therapy. It is typically not replaced by an intuition to the opposite effect, but there exists a sound argument to the effect that the Z-world is indeed better than the A-world.

Keywords:   population ethics, the repugnant conclusion, actualism, existential risks, end of humanity

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