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Gustaf Arrhenius: Imprecision in Population Ethics

The fourth meeting of the Oxford Moral Philosophy Seminar in Trinity Term will be on Monday, 16 May, in the Lecture Room on the second floor of the Radcliffe Humanities Building, Woodstock Road, Oxford.

Recently Derek Parfit has suggested a novel way of avoiding the Repugnant Conclusion by introducing what he calls “imprecision” in value comparisons.  He suggests that in a range of important cases, populations are only imprecisely comparable. Parfit suggests that this feature of value comparisons opens up a way of avoiding the Repugnant Conclusion without implying other counterintuitive conclusions, and thus solves one of the major challenges in ethics. In this paper, I shall try to clarify Parfit’s proposal and evaluate whether it will help us with the paradoxes in population ethics.    

Members of the audience are invited to join the speaker and the convenor for drinks and dinner at Somerville College following the talk.  Discussion of the talk will continue at the end of the dinner.  Vegetarian meals for students, JRFs, and postdocs will be paid for by the seminar convenor.

Gustaf Arrhenius is Director of the Institute for Future Studies in Stockholm and Professor of Practical Philosophy at Stockholm University.  He is also honorary professor at Aarhus University in Denmark and has recently directed the Franco-Swedish Program in Philosophy and Economics at College d’etudes mondiales in Paris and the Swedish Collegium for Advanced Study in Uppsala.  He is best known for his groundbreaking work in population ethics.  His forthcoming book, Population Ethics: The Challenge of Future Generations, is already something of an underground classic and is eagerly anticipated by those working in the area.