Teruji Thomas, ‘The Asymmetry, Uncertainty, and the Long Term’

Link post

New GPI pa­per: Teruji Thomas, ‘The Asym­me­try, Uncer­tainty, and the Long Term’. Ab­stract:

The Asym­me­try is the view in pop­u­la­tion ethics that, while we ought to avoid cre­at­ing ad­di­tional bad lives, there is no re­quire­ment to cre­ate ad­di­tional good ones. The ques­tion is how to em­bed this view in a com­plete nor­ma­tive the­ory, and in par­tic­u­lar one that treats un­cer­tainty in a plau­si­ble way. After re­view­ing the many difficul­ties that arise in this area, I pre­sent gen­eral ‘su­per­ve­nience prin­ci­ples’ that re­duce ar­bi­trary choices to un­cer­tainty-free ones. In that sense they provide a method for ag­gre­gat­ing across states of na­ture. But they also re­duce ar­bi­trary choices to one-per­son cases, and in that sense provide a method for ag­gre­gat­ing across peo­ple. The prin­ci­ples are gen­eral in that they are com­pat­i­ble with to­tal util­i­tar­i­anism and ex post pri­ori­tar­i­anism in fixed-pop­u­la­tion cases, and with a wide range of ways of ex­tend­ing these views to vari­able-pop­u­la­tion cases. I then illus­trate these prin­ci­ples by writ­ing down a com­plete the­ory of the Asym­me­try, or rather sev­eral such the­o­ries to re­flect some of the main sub­stan­tive choice-points. In do­ing so I sug­gest a new way to deal with the in­tran­si­tivity of the re­la­tion ‘ought to choose A over B’. Fi­nally, I con­sider what these views have to say about the im­por­tance of ex­tinc­tion risk and the long-run fu­ture.