Research Seminar

Jeff McMahan: Moral Reasons to Cause Well-Off People to Exist

Time: 19 February, 10-12
Place: Holländargatan 13, Stockholm

Jeff McMahan is White's Professor of Moral Philosophy at Oxford University, a distinguished research fellow at the Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics and a fellow of Corpus Christi College. 

Abstract

Most people believe that there is no moral reason to cause a personto exist just because that person would be well off, or have a life that wouldbe well worth living.  Yet when presentedwith cases in which there is a choice between causing a better-off individualto exist and causing (or allowing) a different, less well-off individual toexist, most people think that there is a strong moral reason to cause thebetter-off individual to exist rather than the less well-off individual. I findit puzzling, however, to suppose that there is a strong reason to cause abetter-off individual to exist when the alternative is that a differentwell-off, though less well-off,individual will exist, but no reasonto cause the better-off individual (or a different but equally well-offindividual) to exist when the alternative is that no new individual will comeinto existence. Some philosophers have argued the reason to cause thebetter-off individual to exist is entirely conditional – for example, on adecision to cause some new individual to exist. I will suggest some reasons forskepticism of these arguments. I will argue that the reason to cause abetter-off individual to exist rather than a less well-off individual cannot beas strong as we intuitively believe it to be unless it is grounded inconsiderations that also ground a reason to cause a well-off individual toexist rather than not cause any individual to exist.

No registration is needed. Welcome to the Institute for Futures Studies, Holländargatan 13 in Stockholm!

Do you wish to get reminders about our research seminars? Subscribe here!

 


Previous activities and documentation