Below you may find a list of all accepted talks in alphabetical order, as well as all abstracts.
There is also a preliminary version of a PDF containing all abstracts (it is about 85 pages long).
We will not provide a printed version of this for every participant of the conference, but we will have some copies on display.
For any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us.
Andrew Akampurira, Makerere University/Uganda
Emerging Technologies in Healthcare: A Challenge to Developing Countries
With the development and advancement of ICT in different parts of the world it has grossly increased better health facilities and access to health care. It is praiseworthy that some diseases which were regarded as ‘incurable’ are now curable with this modern technology. People are now living longer than in the past- the work of technology in health care! Despite of this development, most developing countries especially in Sub-Saharan Africa still lag behind due to poor technology. Advanced technologies in health care often originate from rich and developed countries; yet these technologies are applied universally regardless of people’s culture, history and economic status among others. These technologies come up with ethical questions or dilemmas which sometimes affect developing countries and since sometimes research is conducted only in developed and rich countries their application affects poor and developing countries. There is need to involve all health care stakeholders (both in developing and developed nations) at all stages of technological development so that the results can be applied universally and if not it leaves a gap in their application.
Vuko Andrić, Bayreuth University/Germany
The Utilitarian Justification of Democracy
Can utilitarianism make sense of democracy? In my paper, I want to address two arguments to the contrary. The first argument says that democracy is intrinsically valuable, but utilitarianism can
only account for the instrumental value of democracy. Democracy is intrinsically valuable, so the argument goes, as a form of collective self-determination.
In response I want to point out that utilitarians can endorse the claim that democracy understood as collective self-determination is intrinsically valuable-for persons. This claim is plausible because autonomy is plausibly considered intrinsically valuable for persons and participating in collective self-determination (i.e., being engaged in democratic discourses and decision-making) is a component of an autonomous life. Moreover, understanding democracy as intrinsically valuable has no theoretical advantages over understanding democracy as intrinsically valuable-for persons. In particular, we can plausibly explain on either account why having a dictatorship is bad in one way even when it is all things considered better than a democracy.
The second objection to utilitarian accounts of democracy focuses on democratic legitimacy. Critics argue that, even though utilitarianism yields plausible justifications as to why democratic institutions should be established and preserved in the long run, utilitarianism cannot explain why the fact that a political decision was made democratically makes the implementation of that decision pro tanto permissible.
My response is that there are strong reasons in well-functioning democracies to implement political decisions if they are democratically taken and not to implement them otherwise. For what is at stake with respect to any such decision is nothing short of the authenticity and stability of the democratic institutions. And these institutions, the objections grants, should be established and preserved according to utilitarianism.
Daisuke Arie, Yokohama National University/Japan
J.S.Mill’s Cruel and Godless World of Political Economy: Human Nature, Norm and Utility
The purpose of this paper is to investigate religion and its relation to political economy in John Stuart Mill’s thought. It will show that Mill’s political economy is unrelated to Christianity
entirely contrary to so-called "Christianity political economy" by T. Chalmars, R. Whately and others in the first half of the 19th century Britain. For this purpose, I will examine: (i) the
methodological self-contradiction of natural theology-based Christian political economy in the case of analyzing actual fluctuating economic trend;
(ii) the essence of Mill’s utilitarian-based anti-religious thought shown in his Three Essays of Religion including his ‘religion of hope’; (iii) Mill’s anti-religious aspects in his Principle of Political Economy and other writings such as his famous Inaugural address, delivered to the University of St. Andrews from the viewpoint of his views of human nature and actual economic world in particular.
The conclusion of this paper will also show the following evaluation of J. S. Mill as a by-product. In late years, the general reputation of the modern economics is not good at all. It is said that the reason is because norm and analysis theoretically become estranged in the economics, and then economics is incapable of suggesting an appropriate policy for improving extreme inequity of the income distribution nowadays. In fact, John Stuart Mill is the economist who first got a head start of the directions "from a model to analysis" in the history of methodology of economics.
A New View on Collective Decision Situations
Utilitarianism recommends the agent to perform one of the available options that brings about the best results. However, collective decision situations are often described as decision situations
where no action of any agent brings about a result independently of the actions of the other involved agents. For instance, A and B both have to decide to phi or to psi, where result X obtains if
both perform action phi, result Y obtains in case of both psi-ing and a combination of phi-ing and psi-ing results in outcome Z.
Hence, apparently, collective decision situations are exactly decision situations in which at least one possible outcome depends on more than one performed action. Under this view, they are decision situations of an own kind.
If true, utilitarianism seemingly has to include the actions of the other agents into the evaluation of each individual action in order to have evaluative grip. Alternatively, Utilitarianists could give up such grip in collective decision situations and instead restrict itself, e.g., to purely conditional evaluations like for instance “phi-ing is right for agent A if and only if agent B phi-s”; or they could accept genuine evaluative gaps in collective decision situations.
In my talk, I briefly point out the drawbacks of all these approaches. Then I introduce and motivate a fresh view on collective decision situations, understanding them as composition of genuine individual decision situations, where all decisions but the one of the agent who decides last result in other decision situations for each remaining decider. I present a formal framework for this view that allows for the reformulation of traditional descriptions of collective action situations in a way that provides utilitarianists with new approaches to the problem of collective actions (cf. Parfit (1984, 1988), Kagan (2011), Pinkert (2015) and elsewhere).
Benjamin Bourcier, Catholic University of Lille/France
Bringing the State Back into Cosmopolitanism: Responsibility and Utility in Bentham’s Thought
The name of Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832) is classically attached to liberal internationalism and positivist legal theory. As such, Bentham’s utilitarianism is largely centered on modern States.
Contrary to a consensual reading of his State theory, I will argue that the State plays a central role in a redefined cosmopolitan theory.
I will develop my interpretation in two parts. Firstly, I will explain that Bentham’s cosmopolitanism is, for a part, framed by his conception of international law and the chain of interlocking laws that assure a connection between international law and constitutional law. The chain of interlocking laws aims to predict the growth of happiness (“laws of peace”) and, in the same time, to assure their respect by the sovereignties (“laws of war”). From the explanation of the rights and obligations of the sovereign define by international law, the chain of interlocking laws appears to redefine the responsibility of the State at the global level in order to fit with the cosmopolitan purpose of his utilitarian thought. Secondly, based on this legal framework, Bentham’s international political theory articulates two complementary views perspectives to think the responsibility of the State at the global level. The first, even though less crucial, relies on an internationalist structure which aims through the creation of international institutions and the role of diplomacy to erect the responsibility of the State and limits his actions. The second is the legal constitutional procedure concerning the obligation for a State to respect his rights and perform his duties that is shaping and defining the responsibility of each public official of the State. I will mainly focus on this last dimension that I assume to be related to the idea of cosmopolitanism. I will explain how the State’s modern bureaucratic form relies on the possibility to individualize the responsibility of each public official about the global action or non-action of the State. Bringing the State back in cosmopolitan theory means for Bentham defining institutional rules, practices and responsibilities that prevent States misrules and conflicts on the international scene and addressing the value of peace as a cosmopolitan ideal.
José De Sousa E. Brito, Tribunal Constitucional/Portugal
Climbing the Same Mountain: Utilitarianism and Aristotelianism
Derek Parfit has demonstrated how utilitarianism and Kantianism can be rationally reconstructed as different ways to arrive at the same ethical conclusions and, more than that, to build a unified
ethical system. It has to be asked if Aristotelianism is a third way of climbing the same mountain of a well-argued unified ethical system. The preparation for such a new philosophical
reconstruction was to some extent already laid down by Bentham and Mill through what they said about typical Aristotelian doctrines.
If one takes utilitarian theories as a species of goal-based or good-based theories, and if one identifies the good of man and happiness, it is possible to oppose theories of happiness, as Aristotelianism and utilitarianism, to duty-based and to right-based theories.
The very beginning of the Ethica Nicomachea quoted in Greek is the only authority that Bentham invokes in his first public exposition of the principle of utility in A Fragment on Government.
Bentham did not see his own epochal contribution to recuperate Aristotle in the history of Philosophy. In fact, modern Philosophy adopted concepts of reason and of reasoning that were restricted to the realm of theoretical truth. Hume retires the ultimate consequence: human action is not guided by reason but by passion, there is no practical reason. Now Bentham follows Hume in the methodical separation of ought and is. But in the doctrine of reason Bentham dissociates from Hume. An essential contribution of Bentham to the history of philosophy is precisely the recuperation of practical reason as a science, which he calls utilitarianism.
In contrast to Bentham, John Stuart Mill does not quote nor discuss extensively Aristotle, but develops many arguments that allow for a close proximity between utilitarianism and Aristotelianism:
- Both have practical reasoning as method;
- Both have the same ground, Mill’s practice corresponds to Aristotle’s praxis;
- For both, happiness is the ultimate end;
- For both, the virtues are means for happiness.
Antonin Broi, Sorbonne Université/France
The Systemic Change Objection To Effective Altruism
Effective Altruism (EA) is a movement that aspires to do the most good. One enduring objection is that it fails to accommodate systemic change, that is, change that affects large social
structures. The objection has been met with skepticism from the EA community, notably because of its failure to fit with the EA consequentialist and rational outlook.
The goal of this talk is twofold:
First, I confirm that the consequentialist and rational underpinnings of EA are not vulnerable to a systemic change objection. Indeed, the rational choice theory that provides the basis for decision making in EA cannot give rise to biases against systemic change. Moreover, systemic change is intuitively associated to collective action and coordination. Although it might be promising to say that failure to conduct systemic change is just failure to coordinate, it is at odds with actual coordination efforts that can be found within the EA movement.
Second, I identify some aspects of EA which turn out to be vulnerable to a systemic change objection. I focus first on how talk of "solving problems" and "cause areas", very common in the EA movement, points to changes that are necessarily confined. I then turn to the Importance-Neglectedness-Tractability framework, commonly used in the EA movement to evaluate cause areas, and argue that it is inappropriate for changes that are all-or-nothing or non-linear. The problem is that systemic change often displays these characteristics. As a result, it is likely to be overlooked.
I conclude that although there is some room for a systemic change objection against EA, further developments are necessary to make it convincing.
Antonin Broi, Sorbonne Université/France
The Measurability of Subjective Well-Being
It is well-known that classical utilitarianism requires well-being to be amenable to summing or averaging, in order to proceed to utilitarian aggregation. As many have noticed, this is not a
trivial feature. In particular, it requires individual well-being to be measurable.
Let's call the measurability objection against utilitarianism the idea that subjective well-being is not measurable. Various claims have been made to lend support to this objection. Some have argued that well-being is heterogeneous, and thus sometimes incommensurable. Others point out that as a subjective psychological state, well-being cannot be objectively measured.
In this talk I will clarify the measurability objection against utilitarianism and hint at new directions to discuss it.
I first show that there are many different kinds of measurability. One common distinction is between practical and theoretical measurability, but a more detailed typology can be drawn. Some have argued that our practical inability to measure well-being undermines utilitarianism, but this is unconvincing. On most utilitarian theories, well-being is to be understood in a realist way, as something that exists out there and that has intrinsic value. Practical considerations as to whether we know how to measure it or not are irrelevant. As a result, utilitarianism is only concerned with metaphysical (or theoretical) measurability, that is, the existence of a real quantitative structure, independent from human attempts to measure it.
Once it is clear which kind of measurability matters in this debate, we can make progress on the question whether subjective well-being is measurable. The real quantitative structure at stake in the case of subjective well-being is of course dependent on our precise conception of well-being (preference satisfaction, pleasure minus pain, etc.).
As a matter of fact, there is a domain of research in philosophy of psychology that concerns itself with whether psychological states, either sensations or attitudes, are quantitative. I show that by drawing on this literature we can bring out new insights into the measurability objection and I outline an argument in favor of well-being measurability based on an inference to the best explanation.
Anne Brunon-Ernst, Université Panthéon-Assas/France
Indirect Legislation: The New Bentham-Foucault Conundrum
The Foucault papers at the French National Library have revealed a new conundrum which overthrows Foucault’s interpretation of Bentham’s reform of punishment as a template for the era of disciplines. They prove that Foucault was aware of Bentham’s writings on apparent punishment to be found in Dumont’s Traités de legislation civile et pénale. The aim of the paper is to try and understand how Foucault could accommodate a project that was akin to Damien’s punishment – the epitome of the era of sovereignty – with his statement that Bentham heralded the era of disciplines in Discipline and Punish. The paper will do so looking first into some other manuscript sources written by Foucault, in particular those dealing with trompe l’oeils and panoramas, and explore the gap between Damien’s punishment and Bentham’s apparent punishment. The paper will then reassess the part played by imagination in Bentham’s works on prison reform. Beyond the issue of Foucault’s classification of Bentham, the research seeks to stress the role of imagination as an essential corollary to intensify the effect of a legal sanction.
Thomas Carson, Loyola University Chicago/USA
Was Abraham Lincoln a Utilitarian?
There is considerable prima facie evidence that Lincoln was a utilitarian. He said that we should judge actions by their “fruits” (consequences). He also said:
„I hold that while a man exists, it is his duty to improve not only his own condition, but to assist in ameliorating mankind; and, therefore ... I am for those means which will give the greatest good to the greatest number.“
„The true rule, in determining to embrace, or reject any thing, is not whether it have any evil in it; but whether it have more of evil than of good. There are few things wholly evil, or wholly good. Almost everything, especially governmental policy, is an inescapable compound of the two; so that our best judgment of the preponderance between them is continually demanded.”
„I would consent to any GREAT evil, to avoid a GREATER one.“
However, Lincoln endorsed other moral principles that can sometimes conflict with utilitarianism. He said that we should obey the law and follow God’s will. He also thought that he was morally obligated to abide by his oath of office to execute the law faithfully and defend the US Constitution. Lincoln didn’t have a fully consistent moral philosophy. But, while he was President of the United States, Lincoln was a utilitarian, in practice. In all of his important decisions and policies regarding slavery and the American Civil War, he tried to do what would have the best consequences. In these cases, he saw no conflict between utilitarianism and the other moral principles that he endorsed. Lincoln thought that it is very seldom possible to discern God’s will. He also believed that, in order for his policies to succeed, he needed to act in accordance with the law and his oath of office.
Chien-Kang Chen, National Chengchi University/Taiwan
Universal Benevolence in The Methods of Ethics and Vajra Sutra: A Comparative Study
Revised title: Henry Sidgwick and Xunzi: A Comparative Study (no abstract available for revised talk)
This essay aims to conduct a bold and creative comparison between two classics of Western and Chinese culture respectively, namely Henry Sidgwick’s The Methods of Ethics and Vajra
Sutra of Buddhism. This study, though bold, is grounded on the theoretical affinities discovered by the author between two great texts. These affinities, the most essential of which, are the
rejection of egoism and the approval of universal benevolence as an important virtue. Following these main themes, this essay will contribute to develop a theoretical connection between
Utilitarianism and Buddhism, the benefit of which is to broaden the theoretical horizon of Utilitarianism, and to deepen the mutual understanding between Western and Eastern cultures.
As an important thinker of classical Utilitarianism, Sidgwick justifies Utilitarianism by systematizing Egoism, Intuitionism, and Utilitarianism. His theory is famous for leaving the question of the dualism of practical reason unsolved. Yet, along with this, Sidgwick as well criticizes egoism on the one hand, advocates universal benevolence and self-cultivation on the other. Both of these aspects are in agreement with the spirits of Buddhism as revealed in Vajra Sutra. In answering the question of how to master one's mind, Buddha replies that bodhisattvas should restrain ego when practicing giving. By being without a self, without individuality, and without sentient beings in the cultivation of wholesome dharmas, one attains anuttara-samyak-sambodhi. That is, to attain the highest condition and becomes a Buddha. Being aware of the differences between Buddhism and Utilitarianism, this essay proposes to explore the common themes shared by The Methods of Ethics and Vajra Sutra, namely the rejection of egoism and the cultivation of universal benevolence. The purpose is twofold. First, to broaden our understanding of Utilitarianism by this cross-cultural study. Second, to explore the origins of utilitarian reasoning in Chinese tradition by studying one of the most influential texts of Buddhism, i.e. Vajra Sutra.
Matthew Clark, University of St Andrews/UK
The Continuous Weak Superiority View
The aim of this paper is to present a novel population axiology that is closer to Parfit’s Thoery X than any axiology suggested thus far.
A key desiderata for Theory X is avoiding the Repugnant Conclusion:
Repugnant Conclusion: For any population A, there is some better population Z that only contains lives that are barely worth living.
Avoiding the Repugnant Conclusion is a paradigm case of Superiority.
Axiologies that endorse Superiority are notoriously subject to compelling spectrum arguments, culminating in Arrhenius’ Impossibility Theorems. For a simple spectrum argument of equal populations at wellbeing levels w1,w2,…,wi,w(i+1),…,wn, any axiology that endorses Superiority must make one of the following two claims for at least some neighbouring pair.
Strong Superiority: Any number of people at wellbeing wi is better than any number of people at well-being w(i+1).
Weak Superiority: A sufficient number of people at wellbeing wi is better than any number of people at well-being w(i+1).
In this paper I argue against existing defences of Superiority as they defend the claim that for any spectrum of well-being levels, Strong Superiority holds between some neighbouring pair, grounded in discontinuous thresholds in the value of lives.
Instead I reject discontinuities and I propose a novel account – called the Continuous Weak Superiority View. This view vindicates the rejection of the Repugnant Conclusion while capturing what was compelling about the ultimately flawed spectrum arguments. This is achieved by providing continuous counterparts to Arrhenius’ discrete conditions.
Shortly before his death Parfit read my work articulating this axiology, concluding his comments with “I congratulate you greatly for what this paper achieves”. Although any axiology is subject to counter-intuitive consequences and our correspondence was cut short, I aim to have provided the closest axiology to Parfit’s hoped for Theory X.
Gary Comstock, North Carolina State University/USA
Utilitarian assessment of the Legal Value of Companion Animals
This paper proposes an act-utilitarian assessment of the legal value of companion animals. Guardians of companion animals killed wrongfully in the U.S. historically receive compensatory judgments
reflecting the animal’s economic value. As animals are property in torts law, an animal’s economic value is its fair market value (FMV), its value, as it were, to strangers. However, in light of
the fact that guardians often value their companion animals at rates in excess of FMV, legislatures and courts have begun to recognize a second value, the animal’s value to its guardian, or its
capital. Since guardians invest in their animals, when animals are killed guardians lose the opportunity to recoup their investments. I argue for a third value, an animal’s intrinsic value, its
value to itself, and I propose a method to determine it. The method assesses investments animals make in themselves expecting a return.
The method is:
CVt = ∑_(t=a)^((1+r)/1) (w) K (f, m, g, h, q, Z, Θ)
where CV is capital value, t is the time the assessment is made, a is the age of the animal, (1+r)/1 is the rate of inflation, w is the wage "paid" to the dog, K is the coefficient of appreciation, f is the cost of food, m is veterinary medical care, g are gifts given to the dog, h is the cost of other health care expenditures, q is the amount of quality time spent with the animal, Z is the guardian's income, and Θ is the dog's characteristics.
The theory has legal implications for economic damages in wrongful companion animal death lawsuits and philosophical implications for proper utilitarian assessment of the value of animal life.
Emmanuelle De Champs, Université de Cergy-Pontoise/France
Greatest or Public Happiness? Condorcet and Bentham on Interests, Representation and the Public Good
Built around the vocabulary of "happiness" in the early thought of two contemporaries, Nicolas de Condorcet and Jeremy Bentham, this study maps out the points where they converge and those on which they do not, locating their distinct positions in broader Enlightenment debates. First, it compares their respective positions on happiness to that of Claude-Adrien Helvétius, who in many respects provided one framework for the political and moral discussion of happiness in politics in the second half of the eighteenth century. Secondly, it examines the positions of Bentham and Condorcet on a series of issues directly related to public happiness in the early years of the French Revolution, up until the end of 1791. After that, the paths of the two philosophers regarding the political situation in France sharply diverged. While Bentham's interest in French events was on the wane, Condorcet became a member of the club des jacobins and later a prominent girondin. As the conclusion points out, the debate over the means of reaching happiness in politics cannot be limited to one which pits utility against rights or the well-being of the community against that of the individual.
Simon Derpmann, Münster University/Germany
Mill's Political Economy as Social Engineering
My contribution engages with the systematic link between John St. Mill’s methodology of political economy and his utilitarian moral philosophy. Within Mill’s logic of the moral sciences,
economics forms a part of an overarching science of human nature. It accounts for social regularities that are eventually based in psychological laws of association. In this approach, the
scientific findings of economics may be transferred to what Mill understands as the ‚art‘ of political economy in order to further public moral ends. In this sense political economy is like a
form of social engineering that bases decisions on instruments like tax rates, inflation targets, tariffs, or subsidies, on a scientific foundation. This influential approach has been subject to
severe criticism within social philosophy and economic sociology. First, the basic psychological supposition of a dominant motive of the production of wealth is taken to imply an overly narrow
understanding of economic agency. Second, the reconstruction of economic agency in terms of psychological causation may be epistemically inadequate, because presumes a perspective of scientific
explanation at the cost of an internal perspective of understanding that may be argued to be indispensable to economic theory.
My contribution briefly discusses Mill’s views on the methods of political economy, and the objections that this approach faces. I offer a partial defense of Mill’s account. First, Mill himself acknowledges that political economy reasons ‚from assumed premises‘, which may be ‚without foundation‘ in factual economic agency. So, his awareness of a methodological one-sidedness distinguishes him from some of the straw men in criticisms of text-book economics. Second, Mill may provide a utilitarian justification for his simplifying epistemic approach, if it the resulting models allow for the best prognoses on standard economic indicators. The best theory simply may not be the most practical one. However, this defense simultaneously requires economics to carry along some provisos, demanding constant reflection of its particular methodology. Economic theory must be particularly attentive to systematic discrepancies between model expectations and empirical findings. As a scientific discipline in Mill's sense, it must refrain from presuming epistemic superiority with regard to normative claims concerning public objectives and individual economic behavior. Finally, it must situate itself consciously in relation to other disciplines that aim to understand the nature of economic agency, such as economic sociology or economic philosophy. Mill’s system can provide theoretical backing the self-understanding of economics as a science, but not without reservation.
Wendy Donner, Carleton University/Canada
Mill's Art of Life
Mill’s Art of Life is an integral part of the organizing structure of his moral philosophy. It distinguishes Mill’s theory from other forms of utilitarianism. In a well-known passage from Book VI Chapter XII of A System of Logic, Mill articulates the three departments of the Art of Life: “Morality, Prudence or Policy, and Aesthetics; the Right, the Expedient, and the Beautiful or Noble” (CW 8: 949). While this description of the three domains has helped to clarify some central elements of Mill’s moral philosophy, some important questions are still unresolved despite recent increased scholarly scrutiny. I investigate further some puzzles raised by the internal structure of the Art of Life. In recent works I have argued that the Art of Life distinguishes between morality or duty and virtue or supererogation. This demarcation plays a crucial role in limiting the domain of the first department of morality and allowing space for virtue and supererogation. I briefly revisit this distinction before turning to questions about the other two departments of the Art of Life. One set of questions concerns the relationship between what seem to be two separate elements housed in the third department. Mill places both aesthetics or beauty and virtue or nobility in this department. These two aspects may overlap, yet they do not at first glance appear to be the same phenomenon. I investigate some ideas about what unites and links them in Mill’s view and what this means for understanding happiness. For example, in some of his writings Mill describes beauty in terms of elevation and the sublime and as aiding in the cultivation of imagination, in contrast with his description of lower pleasures. Finally, the middle department of prudence or policy seems to be quite general and capacious and there is room for scrutiny about what this department accommodates. I look at Mill’s exploration of the philosophy of various social sciences in the previous chapters of Book VI of the Logic for help.
Nils Einsfelder, University of Bonn/Germany
Preferences and Moral Psychology
The academic field of moral psychology has by now received little attention. In fact, there is mostly Lawrence Kohlberg’s theory of moral development, based on Jean Piaget’s research, which
obtained a broad reception. However, other important questions lack theoretical foundation. Thus, the examination of ethical questions in the framework of psychological theory of action often
occurs to be superficial. With regards to the psychological theory of reasoned action, normative influence is only measured by the pressure perceived from social environment, even if there are
attempts to expand this approach by ethical contents. The few papers using this approach show increasing correlation results – sadly, none has established a relationship to classical concepts of
moral philosophy. This aspect has only been further investigated by Georg Lind via his moral competence test, which could be one starting point for the following theoretical approach.
Considering the essential architecture of the psychological theory of reasoned action, an en-tanglement with Krapp’s learning theory provides an interest-based theory of intention. For providing a measurement of the actual impact of moral philosophy, which is to be understood as interest in a morally structured reality, there is need for items claiming to test these interests. This aims for the possibility to discriminate, how strong and with which orientation clas-sical concepts of moral philosophy are able to influence the forming of agents’ intentions. Not only in respect to knowing that moral concerns actually have an impact on our behavior (or rather: our behavioral intentions) in acute situations, but which ethical theory influences our actions to what degree in specific situations
Stephen Engelmann, University of Illinois at Chicago/USA
‘Protagoras‘ Political Economy, Technology, and Progress: John Stuart Mill in the 1830s
In a highly influential argument from the turn of the twenty-first century, Nadia Urbinati recovers J.S. Mill’s democratic reputation from those who would assimilate his liberal utilitarianism to a Platonic approach to politics. Urbinati rightly notes how Mill’s early and lasting infatuation with Platonic dialogues distinguishes between the “Sokratic” and the “Dogmatic” Plato, and she aligns Mill’s politics with those of Protagoras rather than Socrates in the former’s defense of Athenian democracy (Urbinati 2002, 7-8, 52-53 and passim). I write to question this alignment of Mill with Protagoras’s separation between specialized expertise and generalized political *technê,* or at least with Urbinati’s interpretation of it, by looking back at and connecting together two contemporaneous elements of the young Mill’s work: his translations of and brief commentaries on Plato, particularly of and on Protagoras; and his early papers on political economy, particularly “On the Definition of Political Economy; and on the Method of Investigation Proper to It.” An examination of the distinctions and linkages made between art and science (between technê and epistêmê) in these texts, and an investigation of his apparent investment in a study of “social economy…or the science of politics” (Mill 1967, 320) suggests that Mill’s views are ultimately too wedded to the subordination of politics understood as the art of government to a science of society to sustain the democratic interpretation. This tension between Mill’s genuine commitment to an association of free equals and his governmental orientation ironically only increases, rather than decreases, as he breaks with the “Bentham School” and develops what Joseph Persky rightly calls a “political economy of progress” (Persky 2016). My paper ends with some reflections on the meaning of this tension for the rise of anti-scientific populism and other troubling products of democratic politics in Europe and the United States today.
Lisa Forsberg, Oxford University/UK
'Neurointerventions' and English Civil Law on Consent
Certain 'neurointerventions', or interventions that interfere directly with the brain and alter some aspect of brain function, may interfere with patients' bodily and mental integrity in ways
falling outside the law on consent's categories of actionable bodily and mental interference. This means that legal redress might not be possible when a patient has not meaningfully consented to
such an intervention, for example, because she has not been provided with sufficient information about risks and alternative options by her physician. If patient consent is taken to be an
important expression of autonomy, it seems that the law might permit violations of patient autonomy without offering opportunities for redress.
For example, a patient who undergoes transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) without meaningfully consenting, and develops hypersexuality as a side effect, may lack options for legal redress. It may be impossible successfully to sue in either battery (because TMS does not involve touching) or negligence (because hypersexuality is not a legally recognised form of injury).
This paper identifies and morally appraises four types of cases in which neurointerventions may fall outside English civil law on consent's categories of actionable interference. The law, I argue, here fails to afford sufficient protection to certain seemingly important autonomy interests. I provide a preliminary sketch of some seemingly important autonomy interests not sufficiently protected by the law in light of accounts of autonomy found in the philosophical literature. Finally, I argue that the gaps in the legal protection of autonomy interests that we see in respect of neurointerventions may point to weaknesses in the law's protection of patient autonomy more generally.
Scott Forschler, Independent Scholar/USA
Two Forms of Moral Universalizability in Consequentialism
Moral universalizability tests come in two distinct forms which have not previously been systematically identified and distinguished. According to Universal Practice (UP) tests, a maxim M (principle, norm, etc.) is permissible just if some criterion C is satisfied when everyone practices M. Universal Applicability (UA) tests instead require C’s satisfaction whenever anyone—any possible person, in any possible situation—practices M. Letting Cφ [a modal operator] = “φ satisfies criterion C” and Mx = “x practices maxim M,” these conditions can be defined formally as:
UA: □ (x)CMx
UP tests are used by Kant, Scanlon, M.G. Singer, Habermas, and Ideal Rule Consequentialism (IRC). Most non-IRC consequentialists (e.g., Mill, Hare) use UA tests; they differ essentially with IRC only along the UP-UA divide, as most consequentialists accept some version of “produces at least as much balance of good over bad as any alternative M” as their satisfaction criteria, while deontologists reject this for different criteria.
I will show that UA tests are logically stronger than UP tests because the possible worlds in which C must be satisfied in UA tests include all the “ideal worlds” considered by UP tests as well as all others, including the partial-compliance worlds in which agents usually exist. The cases for which Harrod and Brandt thought that IRC’s UP test gave more intuitively correct results can be handled by UA tests when correctly applied. However UP tests create a new class of false positives: maxims whose tendency to cause harm is not a linear function of the number of agents practicing them. These can generate tremendous harm in non-ideal worlds, a fact invisible to UP tests, but easily grounding their rejection by UA tests.
The superiority of UA tests is also implicitly revealed by the history of the multiple attempts by Brandt, Hooker, and others to modify IRC to handle this problem. I survey this history, showing that each suggestion either fails, or—when taken literally and seriously—implicitly abandons IRC’s UP test for a UA test. Tellingly, this parallels the attempts to handle the same issue for Kant’s UP test, the Formula of Universal Law (FUL), either by modifications which implicitly turn it into a UA test (Pogge, Waldon, Schapiro, Cholbi), or switching to Kant’s Formula of Humanity (Hill, Herman), which is itself a UA test.
Tomi Francis, University of Oxford/UK
On Deciding Between Maximising Expected Total Utility and Minimising Existential Risk
While utilitarian totalism usually recommends reducing existential risk, there are cases where the minimisation of existential risk and the maximisation of expected total utility can come apart.
This can happen if we are deciding whether to risk extinction for a greater amount of total expected utility. For example, if we can choose to, at a 50% risk of extinction, increase the expected
total population to slightly more than twice its size, at the same average level of utility, utilitarian totalism will recommend taking the risk of extinction.
However, I will argue that considerations of normative uncertainty favour the minimisation of existential risk over the maximisation of total utility, in at least some cases where these two considerations conflict. I will claim that at least three factors would support existential risk minimisation, in some cases, over the maximisation of expected total utility.
The first is our moral uncertainty over whether axiological totalism is true. We should be uncertain about this because various other population axiologies have been presented, including many which are non-totalist.
The second is that there may be intrinsic value to the survival of humanity. I shall present an example which seems to me to intuitively, but defeasibly, suggest that there is such intrinsic value. I shall also mention some difficulties with maintaining this position. Our moral uncertainty on this would support a preference for existential risk minimisation
The third is that there are problematic cases where extremely small probabilities of extremely momentous consequences can, on the assumption that we should always simply maximise expected value, give intuitively wrong results. If those results really are wrong, the right decision theory might tend to prioritise safe options like minimising existential risk over dangerous options such as increasing expected total utility even at a higher risk of extinction.
So long as we are not certain that the three factors mentioned above can be ignored, the correct position given our moral uncertainty, I shall claim, is to in some cases prioritise the reduction of existential risk over the maximisation of total utility.
Sam Fremantle, Birkbeck College/UK
Can Utilitarianism Take the Separateness of Persons Seriously? [cancelled]
One of John Rawls’ most influential criticisms of utilitarianism is the charge that it fails to take the separateness of persons seriously. This criticism has been approved by many philosophers,
not all of whom are sympathetic with Rawls’s contractualism. However, the separateness of persons objection has also mystified many commentators, and those who are in sympathy are divided as to
its normative significance. It has been interpreted variously as having egalitarian connotations, as an insistence of the primacy of right over promotion of the good, or as rooted in a demand for
unanimous agreement on principles of justice.
In this paper I shall attempt to clear up the mystery surrounding the objection by demonstrating that it can only be properly understood in the context of the paper where Rawls first put the objection, ‘Constitutional Liberty and the Concept of Justice’ (1963). I shall argue that in the context of that paper the objection would indeed have provided a powerful objection to utilitarianism, but an objection that is firmly rooted in a controversial interpretation of Rawls’s theory as essentially a theory of ‘Justice as Reciprocity’. However, I will point out that the power of the objection depended very much on the underlying assumptions of Rawls’s theory at the time; assumptions he later abandoned. I shall further point out that by the time of writing A Theory of Justice (1971), Rawls had revised those underlying assumptions in such a way as to support the idea that utilitarianism would take the separateness of persons seriously. Finally, I shall suggest that the revised assumptions of Theory are false, but that appropriately revised, they would sustain a legitimate but limited objection to classical utilitarianism, that utilitarianism could meet with a relatively minor revision.
Yasunori Fukagai, Yokohama National University/Japan
Putting Knowledge into Machinery/Mechanic Metaphor and into Bodily/Biological Metaphor
Under the emergence of the high trends of “Open Science” since the meeting of scientific ministers on the occasions of G8 2013, the advocated style of scientific research is in transition. It is
partly understood in combination with the new basis of communications based on internet, and it is promoted accompanied with the scheme of open data. However, because of the pressure of the
evaluation of the scientific performance, and also because of more intensive relationships with the fund agencies or sponsors, situation of scientific researches seems to be in naïve. To grasp
the implication of these transit under the emergence of the new style of ordinal communications based on internet technology, this paper put the issue into broader perspective.
Firstly, the issue is good to be grasped as a kind of overlapping with the change of the style and meaning of human knowledge of those era of the emergence of Gutenberg printing and that of the so-called scientific knowledge. The new style of the communication now in available is to bring the transformation of the scientific communication from one-way direction to interaction even in local distance. This implies the possibility of the change of the ready-made style of fairly secret or closed process of scientific research linked with the priority in time relative to the authorship and patents.
Secondly, the issue may be good to be expressed under the frame of two distinct metaphors: namely machinery / mechanical one and bodily / biological one. Since the emergency of the modern style of scientific and academic activity, the framework of knowledge production has gradually gotten the character as like the machine production. However, the intellectual activity are also that of conversation, interaction, and circulation of wonder, curiosity and ideas. The latter is as like the bodily circulation, growing and evolution.
By these steps, this paper try to grasp the scope of scientific communication and new understanding of intellectual “territory” under the frame of “open science.”
Lukas Gloor, Foundational Research Institute/Germany
Absence of Desire Theories and Pleasure’s Role in Motivation
Dual-systems accounts of human decision-making have gathered considerable support (e.g. Cushman, 2013). On the one hand, we make high-level decisions by consulting an internal model of the world and selecting a policy we believe brings about desired results. In addition, we also learn to associate actions in frequently occurring situations with close-by states of reward (“model-free reinforcement learning”). While these two systems often align, model-free learning getting sidetracked by rewards which fail to correlate with long-term goal achievement is one reason why we sometimes cannot help but act irrationally even according to our better judgment. In my presentation, I will focus on the phenomenological aspects of model-free decision making: What it feels like when this subsystem is fighting for control and how its workings map onto psychological concepts such as motivation and valence. Specifically, I will argue that the way our model-free subsystem influences behavior happens primarily through cravings, which make up negative valence. Cravings can be thought of as “involuntary” (from the perspective of reflectively endorsed goals) needs to change something about one’s momentary experience. For instance, we may crave pleasures believed to be nearby. Analogously when in pain, we may crave relief from that pain. Bentham suggested humans are controlled by two masters, pleasure and pain. I will outline how I instead perceive pleasure’s role in model-free motivation to be entirely passive. What drives us forward (next to objectives set by the model-based system) is always an experienced need to steer towards local minima of craving-related dissatisfaction. Insofar as an ethical theory should be informed by what it means to “give in” to our model-free motivational system, I will argue that this vantage point can inspire interesting alternatives to Bentham’s hedonist axiology, namely absence of desire theories such as Fehige’s antifrustrationism or Buddhist axiology (Breyer, 2015).
Marco E. L. Guidi, University of Pisa/Italy
Utilitarian Virtue and Civil Progress
Since the publication of Alasdair MacIntyre’s After Virtue in 1981, utilitarianism has been often criticised as a universalist ethical theory focusing on the morality of actions and rules rather than on the morality of persons. Nevertheless, the ethical works of Bentham, Mill and Sidgwick contain a theory of virtue, intended as intertemporal consistency in the application of the principle of utility to personal behaviour and choice, and as self-education and self-improvement based on the gradual evolution of personal motivations from enlightened self-interest to enlightened benevolence. This paper aims to explore this aspect of the contribution of the classics of utilitarianism, in order to analyse the impact it had on their economic and political thought. So while Jean-Baptiste Say, in his Essai sur le principe d’utilité (1829), identifies virtue with enlightened self-interest and, as revealed by his Catéchisme d’économie politique (1815), considers political economy as the main instrument of personal enlightenment, Bentham bases the political arrangements fixed in his Constitutional Code on the assumption that, as Hume had argued, “in contriving any system of government, and fixing the several checks and controuls of the constitution, every man ought to be supposed a knave, and to have no other end, in all his actions, than private interest”. On the other hand, Mill’s ideas about the improvement of human beings along the scale dominated by the superior pleasures is mirrored both in his political and in his economic writings by a view of civil progress based on the emergence of virtuous and altruistic behaviour.
Andrew Gustafson, Creighton University/USA
Mill’s Criticisms of Jeremy Bentham: The Importance of the Moral Sentiments, Sympathy, Imagination and Community for Utilitarianism
Mill had a sophisticated view of the self, which saw sympathy and imagination as important in the process of cultivating socially-sympathetic sentiments through instrumental means such as
religion. We can see this if we explore the following claims which he makes: a) Bentham’s view of self was too simple, b) Bentham neglected the value of cultivating imagination, c) Bentham failed
to see the positive uses of sympathy as a positive means of generating important social moral sentiments, and d) Bentham undervalued the importance of the communal effect of religion. By
examining these issues, we can gain a historically and systematically sensitive understanding of Mill’s concern with the social development of moral sentiments.
There are very important practical outcomes from this realization. Mill agrees with Bentham on the principle of utility as a standard, but his view of human nature-- the relationship between the individual and society, the role of imagination, sympathy and religion—are quite different than Bentham and many other utilitarians. Relatedly, Mill also has a much more complex understanding of moral development-- something akin to Aristotle’s. Unlike Bentham, Mill provides some understanding of how one might eventually develop sentiments by which one would actually associate one’s own happiness with the happiness of the many without relying on earlier utilitarian’s religious view of the afterlife, helping us understand more clearly why one would want to follow the principle of utility in the case of self sacrifice. Utilitarianism
Johan Gustafsson, University of York/UK
Moral Aggregation, Utilitarianism, and the Argument for Best Outcomes
Is it better to save a million people and let one person die than to save the one and let the million die? According to utilitarianism, it would be better because the sum total of well-being would be greater. This kind of justification involves a controversial kind of moral aggregation, since it is based on an impersonal comparison between combinations of different people’s well-being. An alternative justification of its being better to save the many, which seemingly does not involve this kind of moral aggregation, is the Argument for Best Outcomes. I argue that whether the Argument for Best Outcomes involves a problematic form of moral aggregation depends on whether we reject a weak form or merely a stronger form of moral aggregation. The Argument for Best Outcomes only involves the weak form; hence it can be saved if we merely reject the strong form. But utilitarianism, I argue, can avoid the strong form of aggregation too. I show that any utilitarian evaluation can be justified by four conditions without relying on the strong form of moral aggregation. Hence, if the Argument for Best Outcomes does not involve a problematic form of moral aggregation, the justification of utilitarianism need not do so either.
Don Habibi, University of North Carolina at Wilmington/USA
Utility and Progress: John Stuart Mill on Rebellion and Revolution and the Trajectory of History
Given the conference theme of ‘Utility and Progress,’ I examine Mill’s seemingly inconsistent opinions on rebellions, uprisings, and revolutions. Mill wrote on historic events such as the Protestant Reformation, and the American and French Revolutions. He also lived through such events as the 1848 rebellions, the Sepoy uprising, the United States Civil War, and the Morant Bay uprising in Jamaica. From his published essays, his letters, his record as a high ranking official of the East India Company, and as a Member of Parliament, we see that the positions he took on these events were mixed. Were there relevant differences between those uprisings that he supported and those that he opposed? My hypothesis is that Mill’s apparent contradictions can be explained by examining his perspectives on these events through the lens of utility and progress. I will argue that his opinions are consistent once we understand them in the context of his fundamental belief in maximizing utility through the promotion of civilization and progress. For Mill, the aim of human history should be human improvement. This is what constitutes utility in the ‘large sense’ and the truest source of human happiness.
Martin Hähnel, Catholic University Eichstätt-Ingolstadt/Germany
The Place of Good, Goodness and Goods within Consequentialist Frameworks
Most of the utilitarian theories are using the word “good” in the instrumental sense of “good for” and as an agent-neutral basis for the aggregation of different goods. Furthermore, if utilitarian approaches are apparently consequentialist and universal, they usually must expand their normative basis by adding the teleological component of absolute goodness. Thus, the universal and well-known principle of maximizing the goodness of consequences results from combining the instrumental and regional use of “good” with an almost cosmological outlook. Depending on the axiological structure consequential goodness can be defined as a goodness of outcome whereby the resulting goods are treated as certain states of affairs serving as commensurable units of a benefit-related measurement. From this it follows that within consequentialist frameworks everything that is evaluated (i.e. the consequentialist goods) must be understood in terms of a state of affair (as a perfect bearer of instrumental and intrinsic value). In my presentation, I try to show that goods, in every respect, should not be identified with states of affairs. Against welfarism I defend the view that good life, conceptualized as an optimal combination of primary and secondary goods, does not depend on thoughts about aggregation and the best distribution. Goods, in my view, are rather species-relative qualities of an agent characterized by a special kind of (human) flourishing that cannot be derived from the ultimate point of an absolute or “best” goodness.
Jonas Harney, Saarland University/Germany
Parfit’s Wide Dual Person-Affecting Principle: A Double Hybrid
Parfit (2017) proposed a novel principle for the assessment of outcomes in different number choices – the Wide Dual Person-Affecting Principle (WDP): One of two outcomes would be in one way
better if this outcome would together benefit people more, and in another way better if this outcome would benefit each person more. WDP is aimed to solve the Non-Identity Problem and avoid the
Repugnant Conclusion. However, by uncovering its double hybrid character, I argue that WDP is vulnerable to objections against impersonal and average views.
I start by examining how WDP achieves its aims. It incorporates an intrinsic rather than a standard comparative notion of benefits. I show that Parfit’s argument for preferring the intrinsic notion fails. He merely presupposes that people can be intrinsically benefited by being caused into existence. It turns out that intrinsic benefits just are what is intrinsically good for people. Given this, I argue that WDP is double hybrid, which reveals its flaws.
First, Parfit blurs WDP’s person-affecting formulation by infiltrating an impersonal additive function. For, although he ties goodness to goodness for people, WDP aggregates the amounts of goodness independently of any person being better off. Therefore, it fails to account for the Asymmetry Intuition as a major motivation for person-affecting views. For WDP implies moral obligations to procreate if the children live good lives.
Second, I argue that WDP’s duality refers to total and average views. While WDP’s first part equals the maximization of total goodness, its second part equals the maximization of average goodness. Although WDP avoids the Repugnant Conclusion, its average part produces highly implausible implications: It can be better to add further people with less bad but still miserable lives to a population with lives full of suffering.
In sum, discovering WDP’s double hybrid character reveals it to be unconvincing.
Bashar Haydar, American University of Beirut/Lebanon
Benefiting from Harm
The moral relevance of benefiting from harm has recently attracted the attention of various moral and political philosophers. Several of these authors defended the moral relevance of benefiting
from harm or wrongdoing, and attempted to draw the implications of this on various issues, such as climate change, colonial legacy, global poverty, and others. In general, these authors have
argued that even non-culpably benefiting from harm can ground a moral requirement to give up significant part of the benefits in order to help alleviate the victims. Skeptics, on the other hand,
have argued that benefiting from harm as such is morally irrelevant. The skeptics appeal to examples like as the following in order to shed doubt on the relevance of benefiting from harm as
Simple Benefiting: Fred sets fire to Jim’s restuarant. As result, the restuarant suffered serious damaged and went out of business. Many of Jim’s customers shifted to Sally’s adjacent restaurant. As a consequence, Sally saw profit from her restaurant increase.
Most people would hold the view that Sally is not morally required give up her extra income in order to help alleviate Jim’s loss, despite the fact that these benefits accrued to her as a result of the harm inflicted on Jim.
Defenders of the moral relevance of benefiting from harm may respond to the challenge posed by the above case in one of two way. The first is to accept the intuitive judgment about Simple Benefiting, but argue that there are certain conditions which are present in (or absent from) this case, and which explain why the benefiting-based requirement is not triggered. The second possible response to challenge posed by cases like Simple Benefiting is to reject our intuitive judgments about such cases.
In this paper, I opt for the second response to Simple Benefiting. While I accept the claim that our intuitions about Simple Benefiting are incompatible treating benefiting as such as a morally relevant factor, I argue, contrary to intuitions, that Sally is indeed required to give up the extra benefits accrued to her in the latter case in order to alleviate Jim’s predicament. I argue that our intuitive judgement about Simple Benefiting should be abandoned because it is incompatible with other more strongly held moral intuitions.
Thorsten Helfer, Saarland University/Germany
Two Dilemmas for Desire-Fulfilment Theories
Proponents of desire-fulfilment theories of well-being seem to be in a dilemma. According to a number of philosophers, the fulfilment of our actual (unidealised) desires does not constitute
well-being because we might have all sorts of defective desires that should not be fulfilled for our own good. If we accept idealised desire-fulfilment theories on the other hand, our theory
clashes with internalism of the good. So, either we have an inadequate theory of well-being or we accept a theory that clashes with internalism. In Chris Heathwood’s “The Problem of Defective
Desires” he argues quite convincingly that actualised desire-fulfilment theories do not have a problem with defective desires if we make sure that only intrinsic desires are constitutive for
well-being and if we accept something he calls concurrence.
I think we should be sceptical about the idea that this solves all problems with idealisation for theories of well-being. I will argue that a similar dilemma will come up for actualised desire-fulfilment theories if we try to clarify the underlying concept of desire. If we decide upon a (dispositional) pleasure-based concept of desire, it seems that we need to idealise again if we want to avoid an inadequate theory of well-being. But if we idealise within the concept of desire, the same clash with internalism will appear.
Gustavo Hessmann Dalaqua, University of São Paulo/Brazil
Representative Democracy and Aesthetic Self-Development: Individuality, Conflict, and Progress in J. S. Mill
In Considerations on Representative Government Mill holds that representative democracy is the best political regime because, by promoting ‘progress’, it fulfils one of the main
functions of every government. Progress in turn requires ‘Originality’, which, as chapter three of On Liberty points out, springs from ‘Individuality’. Taken together, these assertions contend
that representative democracy is the best political regime because it promotes the development of ‘Individuality’. Instead of dwarfing or crushing the self, representative democracy recognises
and affirms the right every citizen has to develop the unique features and powers that constitute her Individuality. More than a form of government, democracy for Mill refers to a collective way
of life, a community where citizens are not afraid to develop themselves and to expand their being ‘on all sides, according to the tendency of the inward forces which make it a living thing’ (CW
XVIII: 262). Mill’s ideal of the ‘progressive and many-sided development’ of Individuality descends from the Bildungstradition and thus is imbued with aesthetic connotations (CW XVIII: 274).
Mill’s defence of representative democracy relates to his notion of aesthetic self-development, the idea that citizens should ‘beautify’ their selves and transform their existence into a work of
art (CW XVIII: 263).
After outlining these features of Mill’s philosophy, my presentation will seek to clarify why Mill identifies representative democracy as the regime that maximises progress and aesthetic self-development. Briefly put, my thesis is that Mill believes representative democracy is conducive to self-development and progress because it ensures the continuation of conflict. Like other nineteenth-century writers influenced by the Bildungstradition, Mill thought that progress and self-development required conflict, and thus he designed a proportional representative scheme that contemplated all political groups comprised in the demos. By favouring the collision amongst different political perspectives, representative democracy furthers progress and self-development.
Moritz Hildt, University of Tübingen/Germany
Giving Hedonism a Second (and Proper) Chance
Classical Utilitarianism attributed hedonism a prominent place within its theoretical framework – as the “theory of life” on which utilitarianism is grounded (Mill) –, and thus gave hedonism its
first chance (in modern times). Today, however, many regard hedonism as fundamentally flawed. As a result, hedonism has more or less dropped out of the picture in the current debates on
In my paper, I will argue that hedonism deserves a second, and proper chance. My basic claim will be that the critics of hedonism fail to show the necessity of a wholesale rejection of hedonism. My argument will proceed in three steps.
Firstly, I will identify the central charge which underlies the arguments which are being put forth against hedonsim today: the charge that hedonism is, at its root, too simple: It cannot account for all that makes a human life worthwhile and good, or so it is argued.
I will then, in a second step, examine and discuss this charge in its two most prominent forms: Robert Carlyle’s polemics that hedonism is a philosophy worthy only of swine, and Robert Nozick’s experience machine-argument. I will show that Mill’s answer to Carlyle – his qualitative hedonism – has far more potential than many of his interpreters grant, and that, with regard to Nozick, it is highly doubtable that his argument, under scrutiny, has anything whatsoever to do with the plausibility (or implausibility) of hedonism.
The third and final step of my argument will be a tentative sketch of a hedonistic theory of well-being which is able to address, and overcome, the challenges brought forth against it today.
Stefan Hofmann, University of Tübingen/Germany
Richard Brandt’s Rule Utilitarianism: Replies to the Demandingness Objection
For some moral philosophers rule consequentialism (RC) is the most plausible form of ethical theory: RC can rebut many of the well known objections raised against classical act utilitarianism.
Yet, RC has its own weeknesses. One powerful objection against RC is that even this form of consequentialism might get too demanding: If we think of the future of a “broken world”, RC might loose
its moderate credentials (Mulgan 2015).
This talk proceeds in three steps: First, I will introduce two versions of the so-called demandingness objection against rule consequentialism: The most powerful versions of the objection refer either to implausible results of RC in light of the future or to counterintuitive implications in possible worlds (Mulgan 2001, Arneson 2005, Portmore 2009). Then the rule consequentialist conception of ethics proposed by Richard Brandt (Brandt 1979, 1992, 1996) is presented. Brandt has argued for an influential version of ideal acceptance rule utilitarianism. Some amendments are needed to adjust Brandt’s ethics to a global scheme, but this can easily be done. After that I will reflect on viable options Brandt has to respond to the demandingness objection. For this argument, the rule consequentialist account of Brad Hooker will be one point of reference (Hooker 2000).
The paper will show that Brandt’s version of rule utilitarianism includes many resources that help to answer the objection (e.g. a concept of supererogatory acts, Brandt’s idea of “fully rational persons” etc.). In the end, the most convincing replies lead to an incorporation of deontological propositions into the fundamentally consequentialist account. If our present considered moral judgements are to be accepted the prospect of a broken future constitutes a tough challenge for the plausibility of rule utilitarian ethics.
Arneson, Richard, Sophisticated Rule Consequentialism. Some Simple Objections, in: Philosophical Issues 15 (2005), 235–251.
Brandt, Richard B., A Theory of the Good and the Right. Reprint, Oxford 1984.
Brandt, Richard B., Morality, Utilitarianism, and Rights, Cambridge/New York 1992.
Brandt, Richard B., Facts, Values, and Morality, Cambridge/New York 1996.
Hooker, Brad, Ideal Code, Real World. A rule-consequentialist theory of morality, Oxford 2000.
Mulgan, Timothy, The Demands of Consequentialism, Oxford 2001.
Mulgan, Timothy, Utilitarianism for a Broken World, in: Utilitas 27 (2015), 92–114.
Portmore, Douglas, Rule-Consequentialism and Irrelevant Others, in: Utilitas 21 (2009), 368–376.
Don Jackson, Algoma University/Canada and Shingwauk Project Founding Director (1979-2012)
Featherless Bipeds: Bentham’s Psychological Epistemology and Human Species-Life [cancelled]
This paper will review the genesis of Bentham’s theorization of self-preference as the foundation of his mature epistemology, especially in relation to its significance for his view of human
nature and the necessity of democratic post-colonial political design.
Although always a student and advocate of the importance of sentience: the role of senses and sensation, and pain and pleasure, in human motivation and expression, including the processes whereby these informed and shaped imagination and belief, and thus behavior. The radically inclusive and thoroughgoing ways of its functioning escaped him until his acknowledgement of self-preference as a species characteristic in 1809. As an essential assumption of his new psychological epistemology, self-preference provided for a reconstruction of his theory of ideology and its associated theories of fictions and fallacies with which he was able to successfully deconstruct the prevailing beliefs, behaviors and institutions of the British system of class and colonial rule, and call for its replacement by broadly-based inclusive democratic reform.
Bentham’s achievement of a final break from, or transformation of, the traditional Enlightenment notion of virtue, for which a long train of otherwise inexplicable disappointments as a reformer prepared him, cleared the way for the extraordinary advances in the human sciences by himself and others, such as Darwin, Marx, Freud, Nietzsche, James and others, that followed the new utilitarian view.
A summary of Bentham’s process of radicalization by means of a short ‘theoretical biography’ si followed by a brief account of a recent applications of his theory in Indigenous and Fourth World understand and resistance in relation to colonialism, particularly in Canada, by the Shingwauk Project, a an initiative modeled upon the Bentham Project at UCL.
Jens Jaeger, University of Oxford/UK
Meta Decision Theory in an Infinite Universe [cancelled]
Meta decision theory is the study of what to do if one is uncertain about which decision theory is correct. Will MacAskill has recently argued that our intuitions about which decision theory
makes the correct prescriptions are case-dependent and stake-sensitive; with our intuitions pulling toward acting in accordance with decision theory D iff D implies that the decision situation at
hand is high-stakes. These intuitions are correctly modelled by a meta decision theory according to which the right action is one which maximizes expected value across decision theories
I argue that MEV, if true, suggests that Causal Decision Theory is meta-normatively negligible. The reason for this is cosmological: Cosmologists have argued that, if our universe is spatially infinitely extended, then it likely contains infinitely many copies of our observable universe. These copies contain agents whose decision-making is strongly correlated with ours. Evidential Decision Theory (EDT) takes such acausal correlations into account: We can take our ϕ-ing as strong evidence that our infinitely many copies likewise ϕ. This suggests that, given nonzero credence in the cosmologists’ prediction, the relative stakes of actions are much higher on EDT than on decision theories which, like CDT, ignore acausal correlations between agents. This in turn implies that, given nonzero credence in EDT, CDT becomes rationally negligible in our meta-decision-theoretical calculus.
I discuss two challenges to this argument: The first objection notes the likely existence of infinitely many ‘negatively correlated’ agents throughout the multiverse, i.e. agents faced with the same decision situation as we are, but choosing a different option than we do. In response, I explore to what extent evolutionary arguments suggest that the overall population density of such anti-copies is lower than the population density of positively correlated copies throughout the universe. Secondly, one may argue that EDT and CDT are not trivially intertheoretically comparable in an infinite universe, and that, upon correct intertheoretic value comparison, the discrepancy in relative stakes between EDT and CDT vanishes. In response, I argue that one should be able to generalise from intertheoretic value comparisons in the finite-universe case to comparisons in the infinitary case.
Karsten Klint Jensen, Umeå University/Sweden
Weak Superiority, Imprecise Equality and the Repugnant Conclusion
Consider a sequence of possible populations A, B, C, …, Z, where each member contains more people than the preceding, but their quality of life gets worse. Z represents a population, by Parfit
considered repugnant, in which very many people lives a life barely worth living.
Parfit suggests the possibility that, for any pair of adjacent populations in the sequence, the first is not weakly superior to the second; but across some gap, say from B to Q, B could be weakly superior to Q. A result by Arrhenius and Rabinowitz demonstrates that, in this case, a discontinuity must set in between the quality of lives in some pair of adjacent populations. But this implication only obtains under the assumption of full comparability, Parfit claims. Once the notion of imprecise equality is introduced, the implication need not obtain; populations could instead be imprecisely equal to each other.
However, Parfit also assumes an independence condition to the effect that combining lives worth living into a population has non-diminishing value. In an earlier paper, I have demonstrated that under conditions of full comparability, independence implies that weak superiority collapses into a strong superiority.
I shall demonstrate that, under the combined conditions of possible imprecise equality and independence, an analogue to my earlier result can be proved. However, in this case, the implication is rather imprecise quality is more pervasive, to the effect of blurring almost all differences between options.
Leonard Kahn, Loyola University New Orleans/USA
Abortion and Act-Utilitarianism
Most Act-Utilitarians, including Singer are Permissivists who claim that their theory usually permits abortion. In contrast, a minority, including Hare and Tännsjö, are Restrictionists who assert
that Act-Utilitarianism (AU) usually limits abortion. I argue that both Permissivists and Restrictionists have misunderstood AU’s radical implications for abortion: AU entails that abortion is,
in most cases in the economically developed world, morally obligatory.
According to AU, it is morally obligatory for A to do F in circumstances C if and only if A’s doing F in C produces at least as much total net value as any other action that A could do in C. As mentioned above, AU has generally been seen to be fairly permissive about abortion. A little more exactly, AU is usually thought to hold that abortion is morally permissible in most cases, even during the second and third trimester. But not all AUs are Permissivists. Restrictionists maintain that the value of the future good that the fetus will experience over an entire life is likely to often outweigh the value of the good that its female parent will lose if the fetus is not aborted.
Neither Permissivists nor Restrictionists have understood AU’s implications for abortion, at least as it concerns those living in economically developed countries today. First, Restrictionists have failed to recognize the marginal costs that a person in the developed world incurs on future people. One life lived now in the developed world consumes more resources (and contributes more to global warming) than a life lived in the developing world, and in the process makes the prospects of future people considerably worse. Restrictionists ignore these costs when they claim that it is often morally impermissible to abort fetuses. Second, Permissivists have not gone far enough when they have claimed that abortion is morally permissible. Singer and others have argued that we in the developed world ought to redirect much of our wealth to the underdeveloped world because its marginal value is much higher there than here. But the average cost of raising a child in the United States is almost $13,000 per year. Hence, by forgoing a child (including aborting a fetus) one can save and maintain, on average, between 6 and 65 people per year. Thus, AU entails that almost everyone in the developed world who is financially capable of supporting a child should not do so, even if that means aborting a fetus.
Michal Klusek, Jagiellonian University Cracow/Poland
Nudging for the Most Good – Comments on Effective Altruism and the Identifiability Effect
The identifiability effect refers to the greater willingness to help identified, specific victims, as opposed to merely statistical ones. This tendency clearly goes against the principles of most strands of utilitarian thought, although not all of them. It also constitutes a major barrier to doing the most good we can do - practicing effective altruism. Peter Singer and Paul Bloom, among others, argue that we should not follow our emotions-driven tendencies, and instead rationally analyze available information to estimate which course of actions can result in most good. Peter Singer presents a number of arguments in favor of rational, effective altruism, and encourages people to reflect upon them, seemingly assuming that this would motivate them into action. I will argue that this strategy, even if at times successful, is not optimal. Firstly, it is not at all certain that all (or even a majority of) people can be convinced through rational arguments to act in spite of the identifiability effect. Secondly, the cost of convincing people itself has to be included in a utilitarian calculus. All resources spent on convincing people to become effective altruists are not spent on actually helping people. Finally, even if the benefits outweigh the costs, there may be a more cost-effective way. I suggest that the logical conclusion of Singer's argument against the identifiability effect is a large-scale 'nudging' people into the right action, making use of the effect, rather than trying to override the effect through the power of rational arguments. I also present a number of examples of how this can be done.
Sebastian Köhler, Frankfurt School of Finance & Management/Germany
Killer Robots: An Easy Solution for Consequentialists [cancelled]
It has been argued (e.g. Human Rights Watch, 2015 or Sparrow, 2007) that the use of autonomous weapons systems (AWS) is morally forbidden, because it creates responsibility-gaps, the existence of
which is incompatible with the rules of ius in bello. In this paper I grant, for the sake of argument, that AWS create responsibility-gaps. I also grant that the use of AWS is only compatible
with ius in bello if they don’t create responsibility-gaps and that there are good consequentialist reasons to uphold the rules of ius in bello. I argue, however, that the combination of these
claims does not yield the result that the use of AWS is forbidden on a consequentialist view.
What it means for a responsibility gap to exist is for to be an outcome we would normally regard as wrong (e.g. something we would normally regard as a warcrime), but where the standards of our responsibility practice cannot identify anyone who is morally responsible for the outcome. However, for a consequentialist, our current responsibility practice is not set in stone, but merely another thing to be evaluated and designed on consequentialist grounds: what is relevant is not what our current responsibility practice is, but instead what the best responsibility practice would be. If our current responsibility practice is such that it leaves open responsibility gaps when AWS are employed, but it would be better if there were no such responsibility gaps, consequentialism recommends a change in our responsibility practice. However, abstracting from responsibility gaps, the use of AWS is clearly favored on consequentialist grounds: they promise to decrease casualties amongst both civilians and combatants. Hence, consequentialism seems to not speak against using AWS, but instead recommends closing the gaps by revising our responsibility practice.
Human Rights Watch. (2015). Mind the Gap. The Lack of Accountability for Killler Robots. Retrieved February 23, 2018, from https://www.hrw.org/report/2015/04/09/mind-gap/lack-accountability-killer-robots
Sparrow, R. (2007). Killer Robots. Journal of Applied Philosophy, 24(1), 62–77. http://doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-5930.2007.00346.x
Kacper Kowalczyk, University of Oxford/UK
Extrinsic Identity, Intrinsic Value
I discuss two arguments to be found in the literature which try to link metaphysics of persons and value theory: one due to Derek Parfit (1984) and one due to John Broome (1991). They go wrong in
positing implausible links between value and its metaphysical basis. Parfit’s argument is, roughly, that personal identity matters less ethically since it is less deep metaphysically. Mark
Johnston’s (1997) objection to Parfit is that this argument overgeneralizes by leading to nihilism, since all ethical facts are metaphysically shallow. Broome’s argument in Weighing goods (§11.3)
is, roughly, that since the unity relations for persons (such as, e.g., psychological continuity and connectedness) are axiologically irrelevant, there can be no irreducible final value at the
level of lives. My objection to Broome’s argument is that its main premiss is implausibly strong. I develop a version of Broome’s argument which I call the intrinsicality argument. It is that
lives cannot have irreducible final value because final value is intrinsic yet personal identity through time is not intrinsic. I discuss how the thesis of the intrinsicality of final value
should best be formulated in the context of this argument. I show that the intrinsicality argument overcomes the main problems of Parfit’s and Broome’s arguments, and I outline some reasons for
accepting its premisses: the intrinsicality argument is similar in form to Broome’s argument but relies on less contentious premisses such as the Moorean thesis that final value is intrinsic; in
contrast with Parfit’s argument, there is no threat of nihilism. The strategy of the intrinsicality argument generalizes to show that we cannot attribute irreducible final value to things whose
persistence conditions are not intrinsic. I argue that attributing irreducible final value to temporally extended things leads to objectionable double-counting. Hence, we should conclude that all
final value at the level of a life has to be reducible to the value of this life’s constituent time‑slices. This implies, among other things, that the shape of a life (whether it is an improving
or a deteriorating life, for example) is evaluatively irrelevant.
Parfit, D. (1984), Reasons and Persons. Clarendon Press.
Broome, J. (1991). Weighing Goods: Equality, Uncertainty and Time. Wiley-Blackwell.
Johnston, M. (1997), ‘Human Concerns Without Superlative Selves’. In: Dancy, J. (ed.), Reading Parfit. Blackwell: 149–79.
Ian Kynast, Tübingen University/Germany
Possible Worlds Argument for the Equivalence of Act- and Rule Utilitarianism, and More
Act Utilitarianism (AU) and Rule Utilitarianism (RU) seemingly demand different actions in many situations. However, it has been argued that AU and RU must be extensionally equivalent (meaning
that they prescribe the same action in all situations). Early discussion of this claim goes back to Brandt (1963) and Lyons (1965). Discussion was reinvigorated by Hooker’s “Ideal Code, Real
This paper argues for the equivalence of AU and RU. For this purpose, the method of Possible Worlds Evaluation (PWE) is formalized and improved upon (cf. Feldman 1975b). PWE compares the total utility of different possible worlds. Different possible worlds are distinguished by their action paths. An action path is the set of all actions performed by all agents. Total utility is determined by everyone’s actions (whether those actions were rule-guided or accumulated individual actions). Therefore, all forms of Utilitarianism must prescribe the action path that maximizes utility – whether this action path is best described by rules or as individual actions. (If RU does not prescribe following this ideal action path – however simple or complex it may be – it commits rule-worshipping and is incoherent with the Utilitarian Principle).
This argument is illustrated using model possible worlds in matrixes. An objection from multiple realizability is anticipated (maximum utility might be achieved with different action paths, thus AU and RU could “choose” different action paths). PWE also specifies and improves the Utilitarian Principle: “As an agent, always do your part in realizing the optimal action set”. An important objection is addressed (Hooker and others have attempted to redeem RU by arguing that it consists of explicit, internalizable, implemented rules – and that these rules, opposed to ideal rules will not be equivalent to AU). Finally, PWE shows that the collapse or incoherence of RU is an a posteriori claim.
Felix Langley, King’s College London/UK
On the Conceptual Ill Founding of Demandingness Objections [cancelled]
It is widely accepted in the contemporary moral literature, by both consequentialists and non-consequentialists alike, that past some threshold an ethical theories demandingness can count against
its being the correct theory, under some use of `correct`. This family of arguments is often referred to as the demandingness objection and is often employed (though by no means exclusively)
There are many lines of objection to this family of argument but the one presented here will be that it rests upon a conception of ethics that is fundamental unsound. What I mean by this is that the objection, in order to run, requires us to make a move like the following:
1) we construct a moral theory from some set of reasonable, consistent principals
2) we reason from these principals to some conclusion e.g. the wrongness of certain acts or the existence of certain obligations
3)upon discovering that these principals commit us to obligations which our intuitions resits we must reason `backwards` and alter the scope or nature of our original principles.
It is my view that this backwards move is antithetical to how we should (and indeed in most cases do) conceive of ethics. Our approach to ethics ought to be one in which we `follow our principals where they lead` and embrace these conclusions. The alternative approach, as I will spend the rest of this paper arguing, not only fails to hedge our bets sufficiently in favour of moral realism but also leads us to construct our moral theories in a way which is fundamentally self-serving.
David Lanius, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology/Germany
A Systematic Flaw in the Classical Arguments against Traditional Hedonism
Rarely any philosopher nowadays embraces traditional hedonism, which states that a person’s well-being depends only on the amount of her experienced happiness (or pleasure) and suffering (or displeasure). Recent attempts to rehabilitate it show that as a theory of both what is right to do and what a good life consists in traditional hedonism is anything but untenable. The most influential arguments levelled against it by Moore, Nozick and Kagan involve thought experiments that purport to demonstrate that happiness cannot be the only intrinsic value. They do so by invoking intuitions that we value more a world or action for the sole reason of beauty, autonomy or truth – irrespective of any consideration for happiness. I will argue that the arguments by Moore, Nozick and Kagan all share the same systematic flaw because the invoked intuitions are structurally unreliable. The Heap of Filth, Experience Machine and Deceived Businessman thought experiments are intuition pumps that prime us for irrelevant aspects in out-of-the-ordinary contexts, while obscuring the causes of our intuitions. Once the salient aspects are identified as irrelevant and the causes of our intuitions are uncovered, there is no reason to assume that non-hedonistic values such as beauty, autonomy or truth cannot be properly accounted for as instrumental within traditional hedonism. In particular, I will present a new argument why Kagan’s far more realistic Deceived Businessman faces essentially the same problems as the ones that Kolber, Sumner, de Brigard, Hewitt and Weijers have identified with respect to Nozick’s Experience Machine. In sum, none of the classical arguments is capable to demonstrate that traditional hedonism is false due to a systematic flaw in their use of thought experiments.
Emily Lanman, Edith Cowan University/Australia
Utilitarianism and the English Poor Law Reform 1832-1837
The Industrial Revolution transformed all aspects of society in England and Wales throughout the nineteenth century, with one major aspect being mass migration to the new industrial centres. With this mass migration came unprecedented levels of poverty, which the systems in place could not handle. This resulted in the system of poor relief having to adapt to the needs of the changing society through the Poor Law Reform of 1832- 1834, which was heavily influenced by Bentham’s utilitarianism. The topic of this paper addresses an essential period in the history of welfare in England and Wales where a longstanding system of poor relief was radically transformed. Despite an expansive body of literature surrounding poverty in the nineteenth century, there is a specific gap surrounding the philosophical influences of the Poor Law Reform. This paper specifically looks at the influence of utilitarianism on the 1832 Royal Commission and the passing of the 1834 Poor Law Amendment Act. The premise of the argument will be that utilitarian ideas were central to the reform and are subsequently still prevalent in modern-day attitudes towards welfare. This study utilises reports, debates and legislation to construct a narrative of the influence of utilitarianism on the Poor Law Reform.
Cheng Li, University of York/UK
Samuel Romilly’s Role in Jeremy Bentham’s Legislative Career
Samuel Romilly was remembered for his capability of legal practice, efforts on law reform and mysterious suicide. Apart from those, although many scholars notice his lifelong friendship with Jeremy Bentham, few have explored the nature of this relationship and its influence on Bentham's thoughts. This article categories two roles Romilly played in Bentham’s legislative career from the evidence of their remaining 66 letters between 1788 and 1815. Of the first role as a networker, Romilly helped Bentham expend connections among reform groups in Paris, Westminster and Edinburgh. The second role Romilly played as a sympathetic critic illustrates how Bentham explained and defended utilitarian arguments to his most valued lawyer friend. This relationship develops from a common interest in French affairs and Romilly’s appreciation to Bentham’s talent in legislative science, through Romilly’s continuous legal advice to smooth Bentham’s negotiation with law officers, and ending in the mutual disappointment that arose from Bentham’s growing radicalism and the political situation in Westminster from 1815. The story of their friendship, combining a comparative perspective to their thought evolution, reveals both the coherence and difference between Bentham and Whiggism.
David Lieberman, University of California, Berkeley/USA
Jeremy Bentham on Equality and Democracy
Discussions of Bentham’s treatment of equality tend to focus on his writings on political economy and on his discussion of distribution in the Dumont edition of his Principles of the Civil
Code. In these settings, he insisted on strong legal protections for private property and warned against any legislative redistribution of economic resources. Legal protections for private
property, he recognized, naturally operated to protect inequalities of fortune. Equality was recognized as an important goal in the promotion of general happiness, but it functioned expressly as
a subsidiary goal.
What, if anything, changed in Bentham’s embrace late in his career of political radicalism and representative government? My paper explores this issue through an examination of the plan of government set out in the Constitutional Code. There is much in the Constitutional Code that perpetuated the earlier position and the priority given to security in the utilitarian program. Moreover, Bentham’s plan for the administrative structure of the democratic state ensured that personal wealth was needed for staffing public positions. Nonetheless, I argue that Bentham’s new attention in this context to “security against misrule” gave his democratic plan a more robust egalitarian dimension than previously acknowledged. The key to this egalitarianism is found in his design for and the legal profession under democratic conditions. His egalitarianism here, moreover, offers general insight into his broader understanding of how law and government best realized the ethical goal of increasing “public happiness”.
Antis Loizides, University of Cyprus/Cyprus
James Mill’s Sources on Progress and Civilization: A Study of The History of British India
In this paper, I argue that James Mill’s relationship to both the “conjectural” and “utilitarian” traditions was more complex than it is usually supposed. I investigate how other historiographical, rhetorical, and philosophical practices lay at the background of a number of Mill’s claims. On the one hand, scholars have indeed not missed that “Mill’s relation to the Scottish Enlightenment was idiosyncratic”, but neglected to explore influential practices permeating Mill’s History. In the first section, I turn to three such sources: first, the rhetorical practice of self-justification in Scottish historiography, that is, how the Preface served as a vehicle for the historian to explain his method in and reasons for writing. Second, I briefly examine the comparative method of Scottish and French historians, that is, how they suggested dealing with an important problem for the historian, i.e., confirmation bias. Third, I turn to the method of critical history of philosophy, trying to free “history from uncertainty, from fables, and from the errors with which it had been handed down”. On the other hand, scholars are even less critical of the view that Mill’s aim in writing History consisted in providing a philosophy of history to Benthamite utilitarianism. In the second section, I explore alternative sources of some of Mill’s utilitarian themes. As Mill’s classical background allowed circumventing the adoption of an ostensibly Benthamite vocabulary in Mill’s History, I begin with a brief examination of connections between happiness, security and social progress in ancient Greek and Latin texts which Mill’s audience would find familiar. Then, I discuss how Mill’s treatment of the condition of women in Asian “rude” societies provided Mill with the opportunity to criticize “superficial commentators” on the subject. Finally, I consider Mill’s views on the utility of writing history. Knowledge of the past—even if only to learn from the “folly”, not from the “wisdom”, of our ancestors—had clear implications for good government.
Christoph Lumer, University of Siena/Italy
From Utilitarianism to Prioritarianism – an Empathy-Based Internalist Foundation of Welfare
The justification of utilitarianism is not exactly a success story. Mill's justification, for example, is a paradigmatic fallacy. But this story also holds unexploited potential, e.g. Hume's
The talk develops a justification of welfare ethics based on empathy. It takes up Hume's (and Schopenhauer's) internalistic (but not consistently developed) justification approach, but tries to solve two problems of Hume. The first problem, seen by Hume himself (but not satisfactorily solved), is: Morality requires formally universality and impartiality, while empathy varies with the temporal, spatial, social and personal distance from the object of empathy. The second problem, not seen by Hume, is that empathy is not proportional to the well-being of the empathy object: An empirical study carried out by me shows that compassion with negative well-being is more intensive than happiness about others' positive well-being.
The proposal for solving the first problem is that, in order to achieve universality and impartiality, necessary for the purpose of morality, the moral justification should be based only on certain universalistic forms of empathy: empathy that arises when considering the effects of one's own actions on the well-being of others (and e.g. not the empathy that arises from direct contact with others).
The proposal for the solution of the second problem is: an empirical model is developed, which calculates which extent of empathy (integral of positive and negative empathy over time) occurs depending on the average well-being of different objects of empathy. This extent of empathy is then the internalist moral reason for corresponding action and at the same time it corresponds to the moral value of the underlying well-being – says the proposal. However, the resulting moral value function, because of the greater intensity of negative empathy, is no longer utilitarian (linear function from well-being to moral desirability), but prioritarian (concave function).
Peter Lythe, University College London/UK
The Evidence of Things Not Seen: Jeremy Bentham on the Edifice and Artifice of the Church of England
In 1816, Jeremy Bentham wrote disparagingly of the Treasury's decision to stay a customs and excise prosecution despite the weight of evidence against the defendant, a Canterbury brewer and magistrate named John Abbott. Bentham's attack centred on a missive written by Gerrard Andrewes, Dean of Canterbury, to Nicholas Vansittart, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, requesting that the charges against Abbott be dropped. This article will show why Bentham believed that intervention to be an improper one and a deliberate obstruction of due process. Of greater consequence, however, it will suggest that the Abbott case ought to be interpreted paradigmatically as crystallising and exposing those characteristics of the Church of England-that is, its priests, patrons and patricians-which Bentham thought were innervating the corrupt relationship between Church and state. Refracting his criticisms of the Church through the lens of the Abbott case, this article will argue that Bentham's hostility towards the Church comprised three basic claims: first, that its custodians were committed to hypocrisy and obfuscation in their pursuit of earthly, rather than spiritual, rewards; secondly, that the Church wished to subordinate the population to its will in order to preserve its preeminent place in society; and, thirdly, that the Church sought to substitute the religion of Jesus with that of its own creation. Finally, the article explains why Bentham considered the total dissolution or 'euthanasia' of the Church to be the only effective remedy.
Christopher Macleod, University of Lancaster/UK
On Miller on Mill on Prudence
The Art of Life, Mill writes in System of Logic VI.xii, is divided into three departments: “Morality, Prudence or Policy, and Aesthetics”. Dale Miller, in his 2010 book, offers an
impartialist reading of the Art of Prudence: that an act is prudent to the extent that maximizes total happiness, impartially conceived. In this paper, I argue against that reading. I suggest
that, although Miller’s impartialist neatly answers the question of how genuine normative guidance could be issued from Prudence, this reading cannot make sense of the overall structure of
practical reason that Mill appears to have in mind. In particular, that we cannot make sense of the distinctive identity of Prudence in the context of the Art of Life.
In contrast to Miller’s reading, I recommend a partialist account of Prudence: that an act is prudent to the extent that it maximizes the agent’s own total happiness. I suggest that this reading allows for a clearer systematic reconstruction of the Art of Life as a whole, and retains the ability for Prudence to offer genuine normative guidance. I go on to sketch an account of the overall structure Art of Life, and end by pointing out some puzzles that nevertheless remain about the interaction of the various departments of the Art of Life.
Susanne Mantel, Saarland University/Germany
The Reasons of Objective Consequentialism and Collective Action Problems
Objective consequentialism aspires to actually make the world a better place. This idea is outcome-focused. The “standards of rightness” are future consequences, although these may not be the
best decision criteria in an agent’s deliberation (Sidgwick, Railton, Driver). This distinction resembles a distinction between normative practical reasons, i.e., reasons that determine what is
right (Parfit, Broome) and reasons that, roughly, are good premises in reasoning (Setiya). In my terms, future consequences are the reasons which determine rightness (short: right-making
reasons), but they need not be good premises (or good deliberative reasons). I want to explore the problems that emerge if we construe right-making reasons as radically focused on actual
consequences, and include other considerations merely at the level of good deliberative reasons.
Many problems tempt us to abandon the view that normative right-making reasons are actual future consequences: Can agents act for these when they do not obtain prior to the action? Do they yield counter-intuitive verdicts on rightness in Jackson cases? Would expected utilities or objective expected utilities do better?
I focus on another problem: In collective action situations actual consequences are determined by many uncoordinated actions together (e.g., Kagan). Suppose the world would be best if 60% used public transport and 40% used their bicycles (otherwise, either public transport or biking lanes would collapse). If actual consequences determine rightness, then normative right-making reasons seem to primarily favor combinations of uncoordinated actions, not individual actions, for which they leave normativity gaps. This might tempt us to accept pattern-based reasons for single actions (Woodard). However, I want to explore the merits of sticking to the picture of (fundamental) normative right-making reasons as actual future consequences, and of locating expected utilities and pattern-based reasons merely at the level of good deliberative reasons.
Vincent-Emmanuel Mathon, VEMconsulting SARL/Luxembourg
A Shell Game Theory, for a Green Crypto-Currency
This aim of this paper is to find an economic model that would make it profitable to protect nature.
My previous ISUS papers of 2011, 2012, 2014 and 2016, pointed out that (1) nature should be represented by fictitious economic agents in financial transactions and that (2) financial transactions between both real (human) and fictitious economic agents could be modelized by shifts on an abstract plane representing utility.
Onto that plane, the more ideally located you find yourself, the wealthier you are.
Yet two issues are still pending:
(A) how to project economic exchanges onto this abstract plane of utility?
(B) how do economic agents – be they fictitious or real – know where they stand on that plane and where the others stand?
The answer could be a new type of crypto-currency, which I shall call "Shell" for both symbolic and mathematical reasons.
This crypto-currency would use, first, the “proof-by-work” concept to convert the inherent energy of both economic and fictitious agents into abstract points, thus drawing the abstract plane of utility (solving issue A) and, second, the “blockchain” concept to address the location issue (issue B).
This Shell crypto-currency would be truly “green” by embedding nature through fictitious economic agents.
Helen McCabe, University of Nottingham/UK
‘Civil and Domestic Slavery’: Using the Early 19th-Century Utilitarian Assessment of Marriage as a Form of Slavery to Make Progress Towards Ending Modern Slavery and Forced Marriage
In 2017, forced marriage was officially included within the definition of slavery by the UN. The Bellagio-Harvard Guidelines on the Legal Parameters of Slavery had already noted that forced or
‘servile’ marriages had been included in legal definitions of ‘institutions and practices similar to slavery’. These guidelines argue that a constitutive condition of slavery is that one person
has powers of possession over another, powers which can be manifested in ways with direct connection to forced marriage.
The ‘forced’ element of marriage is sometimes masked by an assumption that marriage necessarily involves consent, and by practices which confer an illusionary consensual status. Sometimes, this also masks the fact that these marriages are forms of slavery, or are practices/institutions similar to slavery, for slavery cannot – by definition – involve consent.
These phenomena are not new. Indeed, both the status of women as property, and the non-consensual nature of inescapable marriage contracts for women are key features of the analysis of marriage as a form of slavery to be found in the work of the early-nineteenth-century utilitarians William Thompson, Anna Wheeler, John Stuart Mill and Harriet Taylor.
This paper outlines their assessment of what makes marriage a form of slavery; notes the overlap with the contemporary definition of slavery and slavery-like institutions/practices; and also notes the elements of forced marriage which make it a distinct sub-set of slavery more generally. It is part of a wider research project looking at where ‘institutions and practices similar to slavery’ become forms of slavery; and whether there are any constitutive features of forced marriage which would help define it as something distinct from both slavery and other slavery-like practices/institutions. It offers progress towards much-needed definitions within, and extending, existing legal parameters of slavery and slavery-like institutions/practices, in order to make it easier to combat, and end.
Ricardo Miguel, Universidade de Lisboa/Portugal
Against Animal Replaceability: A Restriction on Consequence
Animal replaceability is supposed to be a feature of some consequentialist theories, like utilitarianism. Roughly, an animal is replaceable if it is permissible to kill it because the disvalue thereby caused will be compensated by the value of a new animal’s life. This would not be a worry if the conditions for such a compensation were hard to establish. Yet, plausibly, improved forms of meat production can attain them. Thus, the enterprise of grounding ethical vegetarianism in such theories is somewhat compromised. As is, consequently, their status as an alternative to rights-based theories in animal ethics. Recognizing replaceability as a weakness, some utilitarians (e.g. Višak (2013, 2016)) have tried to cut its link with utilitarianism. I will here add my voice to this project. However, instead of seeing the culprit in the usual suspects (hedonism, maximization, wide attribution of moral status), I propose a restriction on consequences: consequences of sequences of actions cannot be consequences of the isolated actions in the sequences. Given this, the main argument is simple: utilitarian replacement requires that the compensating value be a consequence of the killing; but this value is a consequence of a sequence of actions which involves the killing *plus* some additional actions (raising the new animal, taking care of him, etc.); therefore, since, via the restriction, such value is not a consequence of the killing, there is no utilitarian replacement. I conclude with two motivations for the restriction: firstly, and most importantly, it prevents the value of conditional actions from trivially influencing the value of the actions on which they are conditional; secondly, the restriction is also a useful reply to at least two other objections to consequentialism, the “accordion effect” of action and the cluelessness problem.
Dale Miller, Old Dominion University/USA
Rule Consequentialism and Climate Change
What are we morally obligated to do in order to address the looming threat of climate change? In this paper, I consider how rule consequentialism might answer to this question. Anyone who is already a committed rule consequentialist, or at least positively inclined toward the theory, should naturally be interested in what it says about how we morally must respond to this looming environmental crisis. Anyone who is not already positively inclined toward rule consequentialism should still be interested in how the theory answers this question, but for a different reason: what rule consequentialism has to say is so compelling that it may lead them to see the theory in a more attractive light. In the course of working through rule consequentialism’s answer to this question, I call attention to some aspects of the theory that may so far have received less recognition than they should. These include the possibilities that the “ideal code” may contain abstract rules—principles—in addition to comparatively concrete rules and that it may contain permission-conferring rules in addition to obligation-imposing rules.
Rex Mixon, New York University/USA
“What else is it that should trace the insuperable line?”: Bentham’s Theory of Value and Moral Duty
In the last chapter of Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation [IPML], Bentham asks “What else is it that should trace the insuperable line?” necessary to secure
protection from pain inflicted on a human being or animal. After asking several incisive questions, Bentham answers that the qualifying condition for tracing “the insuperable line” – a line that
is impossible to overcome – to encompass the objects of our moral duty is “Can they suffer?” IPML chapter 17.4 note b (CW 283)
This paper argues that Bentham’s “insuperable line” rests upon the foundation that all value is determined by pleasure and pain, and more particularly that “pain is in itself an evil; and, indeed, without exception, the only evil…” IPML chapter 10.10 (CW 100)
Accordingly, Bentham recognizes that “our notions of right and wrong” with respect to approving an action “in a moral view” require “if duty means anything, that is, moral duty, it is your duty at least to abstain from it [an action that is likely to cause pain]: and more than that, if it is what lies in your power, and can be done without too great a sacrifice, to endeavor to prevent it [such action].” IPML chapter 2.14 note d (CW 28-29) [emphasis added]
Bentham develops our duty to prevent actions likely to cause pain, arguing that “in cases where the person is in danger, why should it not be made the duty of every man to save another from mischief, when it can be done without prejudicing himself, as well as to abstain from bringing it on him?” IPML chapter 17.19 (CW 293)
Thus, for Bentham, “the insuperable line” motivates a robust moral duty to “abstain” from acts likely to cause pain and, under certain circumstances, “to save another” from suffering pain.
In summary, this paper explores the philosophical foundation and important implications of Bentham’s claim that “the insuperable line” defining the scope of our moral duty is determined by whether the consequences of our actions, which include our failures to act, appear likely to cause pain to be suffered by another human being or animal.
Tim Mulgan, University of St. Andrews/UK
What Exactly is Wrong with Human Extinction?
Most people agree that human extinction would be bad. But competing moral theories disagree about why it would be bad and how bad it would be. These differences don’t emerge in implausible tales
where one option leads to certain extinction. But they come to the fore in more mundane cases involving small risks of extinction. Extinction risks raise difficulties for both Consequentialists
and Non-Consequentialists. Non-Consequentialists have difficulty explaining why extinction would be bad even if it harms no one. Consequentialists can easily explain the badness of extinction by
citing the loss of future human happiness, but they then confront the objection that (due to the enormous number of future people who might otherwise exist) even the smallest risk of extinction
must dominate our present ethical thinking.
In this paper, I illustrate these differences between Consequentialism and Non-Consequentialism by asking how extinction risks impact on two representative theories: Rule Utilitarianism and Scanlonian Contractualism. I argue that even the most Consequentialist-friendly Contractualism must weigh the importance of extinction risks very differently from even the most moderate Rule Utilitarianism. Thinking about extinction thus puts pressure on Derek Parfit’s recent argument that Contractualism and Consequentialism can be reconciled. I close by exploring alternative approaches to extinction risk, including the possibility that human survival has some final value over-and-above the value of individual lives, and pluralist views that combine Contractualism and Utilitarianism.
Minami Murata, Doshisha University/Japan
John Stuart Mill’s Concept of Representation for Democratic Progress
It is commonly believed that John Stuart Mill devoted himself to a movement of British political reforms in the nineteenth century. Like the classical utilitarians such as Jeremy Bentham and
James Mill, younger Mill generally accepted its democratic transitions. However, the way of his advocacy for democracy differ from them in terms of the principle of representation. In other
words, there is a mandate-independence controversy among them. While Bentham and elder Mill stressed the straight role of representatives delivering the public opinions to Parliament, younger
Mill urged their independent character.
The primal aim of this paper is to consider his support for the independence of representatives through the perspectives of his idea of ‘democratic progress’. To discuss my theme, I firstly focus attention on how he developed the concept of representation by analyzing several essays and newspaper writings which were published around the period of the British electoral reforms from 1832 to 1867. As Mill questioned ‘Should a member of the legislature be bound by the instructions of his constituents?’ at the very first sentence of the chapter 12 of Considerations on Representative Government in 1861, his answer had generally remained ‘No’ since approximately 30 years before its publication. Secondly, I discuss an inevitable circumstances of democratic changes around such reform period provide him the idea that democratic progress requires the representative government.
The paper concludes that Mill’s supports and expectations for freedom of representatives were influenced by ancient Athenians. As discussing my theme, I suggest his pessimism about democracy itself and his admiration for the ancients indicate that democratic progress must be accomplished by not only common people but also exceptional individuals.
Caspar Oesterheld, Foundational Research Institute/Germany
Newcomb’s Problem, the Prisoner’s Dilemma and Large Universes: a Consideration for Consequentialists
Some decision theorists argue that when playing a one-shot prisoner's dilemma against a sufficiently similar opponent, we should cooperate to receive the news that our opponent is more likely to also cooperate. Arguably, this kind of cooperation, which Hofstadter calls superrationality, is usually irrelevant because we rarely interact with such near-copies of ourselves and because real-life instances of the prisoner's dilemma are usually iterated rather than one-shot. However, if – as suggested by modern physics – we live in a large universe or multiverse of some sort, near-copies must be abundant. For most people, these distant near-copies do not suffice to make superrationality action-guiding because they do not care about what these copies do in distant parts of the universe. However, utilitarians and many other consequentialists care just as much about distant parts of the universe as they care about their own part. This allows these causally disconnected near-copies to superrationally cooperate with each other. For instance, a prioritarian might reason as follows: “If I benefit classical utilitarians whenever I can cheaply do so, this makes it more likely that others who reason like me do the same for prioritarianism.” Rather than only being an interesting theoretical consideration, I will show that the idea has practical implications. For instance, I will argue that we can obtain at least weak evidence about the axiologies of other consequentialists in the universe.
Ryu Okazaki, Humboldt University/Germany
Hegels Begriff der Nützlichkeit. Zum Zusammenhang von Nützlichkeit, Religionskritik und Terror
G. W. F. Hegel thematisiert den philosophischen Ansatz des Utilitarismus in seiner Phänomenologie des Geistes, wobei er den Begriff des Nützlichen von den französischen Materialisten, besonders von Claude Adrien Helvétius und Paul-Henri Thiry d’Holbach in Betracht zieht, um die Tragweite des Utilitarismus für die Religionskritik zu ermessen. Auffällig in seiner Analyse ist es, dass er dabei einerseits die Relevanz der Idee der Nützlichkeit hochschätzt, indem er diese Konzeption als „Einheit des Ansichseins und des Fürsichseins“ versteht und darin die Möglichkeit des Zusammenlebens der Individuen in der Moderne sieht, wo die vormoderne Unterdrückung durch die Religion bzw. den Aberglauben aufgehoben sein soll. Andererseits scheint er aber zugleich den Terror in/nach der französischen Revolution auf das Konzept des Nützlichen zurückzuführen, wobei jedoch z.B. Günther Mensching an seinem Verständnis des französischen Materialismus Kritik geübt hat. Einerseits wird in der Hegelforschung etwa von Axel Honneth betont, dass der Utilitarismus aufgrund seiner atomistischen Grundlage notwendig zum Terror führe, betont Hegel andererseits doch, dass die Religion selbst „das Allernützlichste“ ist, dass sie also nicht nur durch die Nützlichkeitskonzeption kritisiert werden soll, sondern selbst nützlich ist. In meiner Präsentation rekonstruiere ich zuerst das Konzept des „Nützlichen“ besonders bei Helvétius und analysiere dann Hegels Darstellung der utilitaristischen Aufklärung näher, um die ambivalente, spannungsvolle Beziehung der Utilitarismus-Konzeption mit dem Terror auf die Frage hin zu untersuchen, ob und wenn ja, wie die utilitaristische Kritik an der bestehenden Religion mit der angeblich damit einhergehenden Atomisierung zusammenhängt.
Ken Oshitani, Waseda University/Japan
The Varieties of Contractualism and the Authority of Morality
It is a platitude that utilitarianism is a position that even non-utilitarian theorists of every stripe have felt the need to struggle to resist. As a result of this scrutiny, the utilitarian landscape has undergone remarkable internal refinement in recent decades. By contrast, a focused investigation into the variety of contractualist views, as well as the relative strengths and weaknesses of the available options, is still in its early stages. In this paper, I critically assess two kinds of contractualist views, from the perspective of their contrasting views on the normative authority of morality. According to T.M. Scanlon’s substantive contractualism, the normative authority of morality is elucidated by reference to the value of realizing a relation of mutual recognition with others. According to Stephen Darwall’s formal contractualism, by contrast, the normative authority of moral requirements is accounted for by virtue of their conceptual connection to the inevitable presuppositions of second-personal address. I argue that Darwall’s contractualism fails to capture the phenomenology involved in conflicts between moral and non-moral values; in particular, the fact that moral reasons appear to be capable of being rationally overridden by non-moral reasons while retaining their distinctively moral character. I also argue that Scanlon’s contractualism is a better approach to explaining the phenomenon of conflict, insofar as it perceives the value that is realized through rightful conduct to be one substantive good, though a central one, among the variety of values that properly guides our lives.
Eze Paez, University of Minho/Portugal
The Unimportance of Species on Rule-Consequentialism
The problem of our moral obligations towards nonhuman animals has been explored from a variety of normative perspectives, including rights theories (Regan 1983; Cochrane 2012), contractualism
(Rowlands 2009), Kantism (Korsgaard 2005) and act-utilitarianism (de Lazari-Radek and Singer 2014; Singer 1975). Surprisingly, very little has been said on this topic from
Drawing from Brad Hooker’s (2000) defence of this position, Pedro Galvão (2016) recently argued that some important cases of species-based discrimination are justified by the optimific principles all agents should accept. First, whereas human interests are protected by rights —agent-relative constraints against promoting the good— nonhuman interests are not. Because agents are not impartial, total well-being would be lower if they were aware of a general disposition to harm in order to promote the good. Animals cannot be aware of that disposition, so it would be justified to harm them when that is best. I call this view Partial Constraints Rule-Consequentialism. Second, many would accept that it is sometimes justified to help a human being suffering from natural causes, even when an animal would receive some lesser harm in the process. Galvão claims, however, that it is wrong to help wild animals in similar circumstances.
I will show how, if we are rule-consequentialists, the view I call Full Constraints ought to be preferred. Even impartial agents would err in the moral calculus, causing falsely optimific harms. To compensate for that, all sentient individuals must have rights —though those protecting some humans may be stronger. Finally, I will argue that Galvão defends an overly restrictive duty to help wild animals. When helping is optimific, it is at least permitted. Moreover, since most sentient beings are wild animals with net negative lives, agents should be disposed to intervene in nature on their behalf.
Ingmar Persson, University of Gothenburg/Sweden
Parfit's Reorientation: From Revisionism to Conciliationalism
The main objective of this paper is to show that between Reasons and Persons and On What Matters the orientation of Derek Parfit’s philosophy undergoes a significant change. The approach of Reasons and Persons is by and large revisionist, which is well exemplified by his much discussed reductionist account of personal identity. This account is suppressed in On What Matters presumably because it does not fit in with the conciliationalist project of this work. The aim of the first two volumes of this work is to show that, on the basis of a non-naturalist theory normative reasons, rule-consequentialism, Kantian and Scanlonian contractualism converge. In the third volume of On What Matters, the conciliationist approach is carried further by Parfit’s attempt to show that his meta-ethical position is in essential agreement with rivals, like Allen Gibbard’s expressivism. It is here argued that the failure of this attempt as well as the fact that the most controversial revisionist claims in Reasons and Persons have dropped out throw doubt on Parfit’s conciliationalist undertaking.
Martin Peterson, Texas A&M University/USA
Nihilism, Utilitarianism, and Kahane’s Wager
Nihilists believe that nothing matters. Evaluative nihilism is the view that all evaluative propositions are false, including the utilitarian claim that well-being is intrinsically valuable.
Practical nihilism is the view that we have no reason to do, want or feel anything. Guy Kahane (2017) claims that we have “pragmatic reasons to believe (or to try to make ourselves believe)” that
both forms of nihilism are false. He presents a series of Pascalian arguments for his claim; the figure below summarizes the simplest version:
Nothing matters Some things matter
Believe some things matter (1) (3)
Believe nothing matters (2) (4)
If nothing matters it does not matter whether (1) or (2) is true. However, if you falsely believe that nothing matters, and it is true that some things matter, then the consequences will be bad for you. You may, for instance, fail to do and pay attention to things you ought to do and pay attention to. So (4) is worse than (3). If some things really matter, then believing that some things matter will lead to a better outcome because you will do and pay attention to things you ought to do and pay attention to. It follows from this that no matter how small the (nonzero) probability is that some things matter, then the consequences of believing that some things matter will always better than or at least as good as the consequences of believing that nothing matters; this is because (3) is better than (4) and nothing matters if (1) or (2) is true, so the first option dominates the second.
My aim in this talk is to show that we have reason to reject Kahane's Pascalian argument even if we accept Pascal’s (controversial) premise that purely pragmatic considerations can give us reason to believe that some proposition is true. Another way of putting this is to say that the Pascalian argument against nihilism fails even when evaluated from a Pascalian point of view. To support this claim I draw on some recent work on moral uncertainty that highlights the impossibility of making intertheoretical value comparisons, which is connected to the familiar worry that utilitarians (and others) cannot make interpersonal value comparisons.
Michael Plant, University of Oxford/UK
Maximising world happiness: what should we do?
Although Bentham, Mill and other utilitarians argue we should be trying to maximise happiness, surprisingly little work has been done - either historically or recently - to discover what, in practice, are the best ways to do this. Members of the effective altruism community, for instance Singer (2015), MacAskill (2015) and charity evaluator GiveWell, claim that the most cost-effective way to use money to benefit humans alive today is by donating to charities that alleviate poverty and treat neglected tropical diseases. I argue that if we want to ‘improve happiness’ – increase the happiness of people alive today during their lifetimes – poverty and health are relatively unpromising. The empirical evidence suggests, when we factor in hedonic adaptation and social comparison effects, improving poverty and health will only cause modest increases in happiness. I argue we should instead focus mental health, pain, and what I call ‘ordinary human unhappiness’. Using existing economic data, I suggest it would be more cost-effective, in terms of self-reported life satisfaction scores, to treat mental health in the UK than to give money to Give Directly, a charity which provides unconditional cash transfers to poor Kenya farmers. More speculatively, those wishing to improve happiness should be interested in attempts to reform international drug policy that would make it easier for doctors to use opiates and psychedelics to treat pain and mental health, respectively.
Malcolm Quinn, University College London/UK
Bentham and the Arts: New Directions
This paper will discuss some of the research directions that have emerged from the ‘Bentham and the Arts’ series that was convened by Anthony Julius, Malcolm Quinn and Philip Schofield for Bentham Project UCL between 30 January and 19 June 2018. The seminar series considered the sceptical challenge presented by Jeremy Bentham’s hedonistic utilitarianism to the existence of the aesthetic, as represented in the oft-quoted statement that, ‘Prejudice apart, the game of push-pin is of equal value with the arts and sciences of music and poetry. If the game of push-pin furnish more pleasure, it is more valuable than either.’ This statement is one part of a complex set of arguments on culture, taste, and utility that Bentham pursued over his lifetime, in which sensations of pleasure and pain were opposed to aesthetic sensibility. As well as Bentham scholars, the ‘Bentham and the Arts’ seminar included speakers from the fields of literature, visual arts practice, philosophy and art history. In this paper, I will show how this interdisciplinary approach has revealed Bentham to be a profound thinker on the subject of how relationships of ethics and aesthetics condition our understanding of the arts, in a way that continues to have relevance today.
Tanja Rechnitzer, Bern University/Switzerland
Evaluating Precautionary Principles with Reflective Equilibrium
The basic idea of a precautionary principle (PP) is often described as “better safe than sorry”, meaning that we have to take action to prevent harm even if we are uncertain about its likelihood
and/or extent. While this broad idea is relatively uncontroversial, there is a lot of disagreement about how to formulate it in terms of a principle. In fact, there exists such a plurality of
interpretations that it has been argued that referring to “the precautionary principle” is misleading since such a unified PP does not exist. Instead, we should acknowledge that there is a
plurality of precautionary principles, that sometimes might lead to conflicting recommendations (Hartzell Nichols, 2013).
But then the question arises how to handle such conflicting precautionary principles: Which of them should guide our decision in a given case? Why should it not still be possible to identify one PP that is justified to a higher degree than its competitors, and that we then should adopt as the precautionary principle?
In this talk, I show how the method of reflective equilibrium (RE) can be used to decide between competing proposals for moral principles such as the precautionary principle.
I apply RE to compare three prominent proposals for precautionary principles: Gardiner’s (2006) “Rawlsian Core Precautionary Principle (RCPP)”, what I call the “Utilitarian Uncertainty Principle (UUP)” (Bognar, 2011) and the “Tripartite Precautionary Approach (TPA)” (Steel, 2014). Each of them is used as a candidate principle in an RE process that starts from the same set of input commitments on precaution and precautionary decision-making. I show that in some cases, the RE criteria clearly allow to identify which principle is more justified, namely, the RCPP is superior to the UUP. However, as the comparison of the RCPP and the TPA shows, through following different routes of adjustment and/or varying pragmatic-epistemic objectives, different principles might result that can be justified to the same degree. But even in such cases, implementing RE will force us to make trade-offs explicit, thereby helping us to settle on one candidate principle.
Giuseppe Rocché, University of Palermo/Italy
About the Badness of Coming into Existence and Extinction
I shall set out two principles aimed to tackle population ethics dilemmas. According to the first – The Principle of the Intrinsic Disvalue of Additions (PIDA) – mere additions are always bad. PIDA is supported, first, by the distinction between welfare and the esthetical value of a life, second, by means of a thought experiment about a world where some people exist without anybody else wanting their birth. PIDA, however, allows benign additions – additions of possible people which increase the wellbeing of, for sake of simplicity, present people. Sadly, if benign additions were always good, the Repugnant Conclusion would follow. Then, the second principle – the Principle of Fairness (PF) – is expected to forbid those benign additions which lead to the Repugnant Conclusion. PF forbids those benign additions that are not fair, on the basis of variables like the number of present people, their wellbeing with and without the addition, the number of additional people and their wellbeing. The underlying idea is that, even though there is a disvalue in putting possible people into existence, if they are not created there may be an even bigger disvalue for present people. Doubts about the fairness of some benign additions remain, but I shall argue that doubts about what is a fair addition collapse in the traditional doubts about what is a fair distribution of wellbeing. Then, some problems of population ethics collapse in traditional problems of distribution. Lastly, I shall consider the problem of extinction. Choosing to reproduce, we wrong future people, but we benefit us. Even though PF leaves room for this kind of compensations, arguably it supports extinction, which is a counterintuitive solution. Then, my two principles do not solve the paradoxes of population ethics altogether, rather they change the terms of the dilemma.
Blanca Rodriguez Lopez, Universidad Complutense de Madrid/Spain
Prenatal Enhancement: Social Pressure and Coercion
When discussing prenatal enhancement, an important topic (and source of many objections) is the shadow of eugenics. Those who want to defend prenatal enhancement either try to avoid the use of
the term “eugenics” or talk about “liberal eugenics”, implying that what was wrong with the old eugenics was mainly its coercive character, and claiming that while old eugenics went against
reproductive freedom, the new liberal eugenics promotes it, giving choices to individuals.
This is the reason why one of the most insidious objections against prenatal enhancement is the one that claims that if we allow people to choose the characteristics of their future children, these choices will not be free. The Pressure objection, as we will call it, claims that ruling out state coercion, these choices will be made by individuals, but this is not enough. The reason is that these choices will not be free, because of the existence of some pressures. As a result, individuals will have less freedom, no more capacity to live according to your own values and the new situation where prenatal enhancement would be allowed would not make them better off.
In this paper we will try, in the first place, to clarify the objection by distinguishing and analyzing the related terms “coercion”, “social pressure”, freedom” and “autonomy”. This first task will allow us to answer questions such as when can we say that a choice is not free or not autonomous or when can we consider that social pressure threats autonomy. We conclude that the mere existence of certain kind of social pressure is not enough to claim that choices made under this pressure are not free.
Simon Rosenqvist, Uppsala University/Sweden
Utilitarianism and Action Guidance
A common objection to utilitarianism is that it is not action guiding. In this paper, I defend utilitarianism against different versions of this objection.
I first distinguish between two kinds of guidance – reliable and evidential guidance. Roughly:
A) a theory is reliably guiding if and only if we can use it to gain knowledge about which action is right according to the theory;
B) a theory is evidentially guiding if and only if we can use it to gain evidence regarding which actions is right according to the theory.
I argue that utilitarianism is evidentially guiding, but not reliably guiding.
Next, and starting from the claim that utilitarianism is not reliably guiding, I distinguish between two objections. First, that because utilitarianism is not reliably guiding, it is false. Second, that because it is not reliably guiding, it is not interesting or useful.
Regarding the first objection, the best argument for the claim that if utilitarianism is not reliably guiding, then it is false, seems to be that this claim holds true in virtue of a conceptual connection between rightness and moral responsibility. In response, I argue that such a conceptual connection supports only the distinct claim that if utilitarianism is not evidentially guiding, it is false.
Regarding the second objection, I suggest several ways in which utilitarianism is both useful and interesting, even if it is not reliably guiding. For example, utilitarianism rules out the correctness of many other moral theories. Utilitarianism is also theoretically interesting, and its truth has important implications for the epistemic status of our moral intuitions.
Korbinian Rüger, University of Oxford/UK
Individual Claims and Population Ethics
Most people believe that it is morally more important to improve, for example by prolonging it, an existing person’s life than it is to bring a new person into existence, even if the new life
would add more value to the world than the benefit we can give to the already existing person would. Call this the Weak Claim. Some even believe that we have no moral reason at all to bring
people into existence just because they would have good lives, while we have very strong moral reasons to benefit existing people. Call this the Strong Claim.
In this essay argue that the Weak Claim is true, while the Strong Claim is false. The Weak Claim is true because individual existing people have claims on us to make them as well off as possible that merely possible people lack. This means that if we fail to make them as well off as possible, they can raise a complaint against our not doing so. The Strong Claim is false because what we have reason to do depends - at least in part - on the overall value of the possible outcomes we bring about and because new lives add value to these outcomes, they thereby gives us a derivative reason to create them.
Loving and Killing Children: Jeremy Bentham on Adult-Child Sex and Infanticide
Jeremy Bentham's essay on pederasty, written in the 1780s, and his writings on sexual morality from the 1810s, are celebrated as containing the first philosophical defence of sexual liberty in general and of homosexuality in particular. Bentham, however, appears to defend and indeed advocate sexaul relationships between men and boys and between men and girls. Bentham also advocated, in certain circumstances, the killing of young children. In both cases he pointed to the practices of ancient Greece and Rome. Bentham was seeking to undermine the dominant Judeo-Christian morality of his time, based, as he saw it, on a belief in non-existent supernatural beings and nonsensical abstract concepts. If Bentham's arguments are sound, currently commonly accepted views concerning pedophilia and infanticide may need to be jettisoned.
Shingo Segawa, Münster University/Germany
Is the Concept of the Person Really Useless for Biomedical Ethics?
Der Personenbegriff spielt eine entscheidende Rolle in der biomedizinischen Ethik insbesondere im Kontext moralischer Schutzwürdigkeit im Lebensanfang und Lebensende des Menschen (Abtreibung und
Sterbehilfe). Dennoch schlägt Dieter Birnbacher vor, dass wir den Personenbegriff vollkommen aus diesem Themenbereich ausschließen sollten. In diesem Vortrag weise ich darauf hin, dass sein
Vorschlag nur zum Teil richtig ist. Hier möchte ich die These zum Ausdruck bringen, dass der Personenbegriff für die biomedizinische Ethik zum Teil hilfreich ist.
Der Personenbegriff ist immer wieder umstritten, weil er auf verschieden Weisen interpretiert wird, die wesentlich auf Kant bzw. Locke beruhen. Außerdem führt seine Einführung in die Debatte um Leben und Tod zur moralisch nicht leicht akzeptablen Konsequenz wie z. B. die moralische Zulässigkeit der Kindestötung. Das Personsein ist untrennbar mit moralischer Schutzwürdigkeit verbunden, so dass es ausschließlich darum geht, ob ein menschliches Wesen eine Person ist. Daraus folgt, dass keine moralische Schutzwürdigkeit dem menschlichen Wesen zugeschrieben werden kann, die nicht als Personen anzusehen ist. Aber diese Konsequenz erscheint mit gesellschaftlich weitgehend geteilten moralischen Wertvorstellungen unvereinbar. Ein großes Problem liegt dabei meines Erachtens darin, dass der Personenbegriff konzeptionell zur Gradualisierung moralischer Schutzwürdigkeit nicht beitragen kann.
Vor diesem Hintergrund macht Birnbacher diesen Vorschlag. Birnbacher muss sich deswegen mit der Frage befassen, wie wir ohne Berufung auf den Personenbegriff die moralische Schutzwürdigkeit des Menschen begründen können. Einer der wichtigsten Gründe dafür finde sich in der Empfindungsfähigkeit. Es ist unter normalen Umständen moralisch unzulässig, Schmerzen menschlichen Wesen mit Empfindungsfähigkeit zuzufügen. Wenn man in dieser Weise die moralische Schutzwürdigkeit des Menschen begründen kann, ist der Personenbegriff unbrauchbar. Das soll heißen, dass Birnbachers Vorschlag völlig richtig ist. Aber im Hinblick darauf, dass dieser Begriff sehr hilfreich für die Debatte um das Lebensende (Sterbehilfe) ist, sollten wir Birnbachers Vorschlag nicht die völlige Zustimmung geben. Sonst verlieren wir eines der geeigneten Argumente in dieser Debatte.
Adam Shriver, University of Oxford/UK
Is Hedonism a Version of Axiological Monism?
Axiological monism refers to accounts of value that hold that there is just one type of goodness or value in the world. Such views are typically contrasted with versions of axiological pluralism,
which hold that there are multiple kinds of goodness. One purported advantage of axiological monism over pluralism is that it possesses a type of explanatory adequacy lacking in pluralistic
accounts that list different sources of value that are not unified by a common feature. Another purported advantage of monism is that it can account for the comparability of different values
whereas forms of pluralism, arguably, make certain types of values fundamentally incomparable.
Hedonism is frequently taken to be one of the canonical examples of axiological monism since, according to hedonism, there is just one type of good: namely positive experience. However, hedonism is committed not just to the claim that positive experiences are the sole good, but also to the claim that negative experiences are the sole bad. And given that the goodness and badness of experience must be weighed against one another in order to reach an overall assessment of the welfare of an individual according to hedonism, we can ask whether hedonism truly retains the purported theoretical advantages that are thought to apply to monism.
I argue that pleasures and pains are sufficiently different such that hedonism cannot retain the advantages typically assigned to axiological monism. To make this case, I provide two distinct sets of evidence; one based on philosophical intuitions about well-being and beneficence that show that people treat pleasures and pains differently in moral and prudential decisions and one critically evaluating recent discoveries in the scientific study of pleasure and pain. The upshot of these two sets of evidence, I argue, is that the goodness of pleasure cannot be explained in the same manner as the badness of pain, and that there is no adequate way of trading the value of pleasure against the disvalue of pain interpersonally. As such, I argue that hedonism does not retain the advantages of axiological monism. This does not mean that hedonism is an incorrect account of value, but it does suggest that additional work is required in order to explain how positive and negative experiences are related to one another.
William Sin, The Education University of Hong Kong/China
Dementia, Filial Obligation and the Demands of Morality [cancelled]
The emergence of population aging adds burden to the demands of filial obligation because adult children’s parents will generally live longer than before; many elderly people also suffer from degenerative diseases which involve progressive dementia. Here, the burden of the moral demand of caregiving is certainly a factor of how far the parents have become dependent on the adult children. However, there are two more fundamental concerns: the first is how far the development of this illness affects the identity of the patients (or the parents). When the parents’ character has been altered to a certain degree and their memory depleted, ultimately they will be psychologically disconnected from their earlier selves. Then, the adult children will not have the same reason as before to reciprocate these individuals. The second concern is how far the deterioration of the parents’ cognitive ability undermines their status as persons in the moral sense. The condition of personhood requires the individuals to be rational, autonomous as well as self-conscious. If traits of such higher cognitive activities cannot be identified in them, they may not be regarded as beings which are worthy of moral respect. In that case, adult children may not have a strong obligation to respond to their needs.
Fei Song, The University of Hong Kong/China
Act versus Rule Utilitarianism: A Critical Review of John Harsanyi’s Coordination Argument
For too long a time, John Harsanyi’s defence for rule utilitarianism was not very widely discussed and appreciated in moral philosophy. Harasanyi provides three arguments, arguing that rule utilitarianism is better than act utilitarianism in terms of giving rise to the optimal social outcome. I critically assess one of the arguments, which is called the coordination argument. Harsanyi argues that rule utilitarianism can achieve spontaneous coordination in certain situations (e.g. voting case) where act utilitarianism often does not. I argue that the coordination argument is weak. It is based on a simple assumption of complete information, something relevant to what David McCarthy calls the problem of “complete probabilistic dependence”: that is, each person will commit to optimal rule R if and only if it is common knowledge that everyone commits to rule R. If we relax the assumption of complete information, then we may face what Donald Regan calls the “identification problem”. I further argue that the success of the coordination argument stems from the rational commitment to rule R. But this assumption may make the rule utilitarianism indirectly self-defeating. For, Harsanyi believes that rule utilitarianism plus the commitment to rule utilitarianism will give rise to a vastly superior outcome compared to act utilitarianism; but commitment sometimes may give rise to irrationality. Kavka’s paradox is a nice example to illustrate this
Rhys Southan, University of Oxford/UK
Experience Machines, Not Nursing Homes
Nozick imagined a machine that overrides perceptions of the external world, replacing reality with convincing computer generated experiences of far more meaningful and pleasurable activities than
are available in normal life. Once you are in, you cannot unplug. Nozick said we would not enter such a machine, for four main reasons:
1. We want to do certain things, not just think we are doing them.
2. We want to be a certain sort of person, but someone floating in a tank, gorging on experiences and feelings, does not have admirable character traits.
3. We want to live in contact with reality, seeing things how they really are, interacting with the
world to change it for ourselves and others.
4. We want to co-exist in a shared space rather than be alone in our own illusions.
In this talk, I will assume these considerations are appealing enough to inoculate most of us against any allure the experience machine (EM) may have. However, this does not tell against the EM for everyone if the EM offers some amount of value and the four considerations are not available to everyone in sufficient amounts to trump that value. Anyone who has lost the ability to do the things they want to do, who cannot be a certain sort of person they might want to be, who has lost contact with reality and is alone in their particular illusions does not stand to benefit from EM avoidance.
I will begin by establishing that considerations 1-4 are unavailable to people with severe dementia, such as Alzheimer’s. I will then argue that without these considerations standing in the way, life in the EM provides an irresistible alternative to the life of the typical dementia patient. Therefore, they should be plugged in, and I will claim this is true even if they are unable to consent to their new lives in the EM. I will refute objections, like that plugging people with dementia into EMs without their consent would be an impermissible violation of their autonomy, and might upset family members of those with dementia.
I will conclude by pushing my argument further, arguing for the EM as a more ethical alternative to retirement or lives devoted to pleasure seeking.
Timo Speith & Kevin Baum, Saarland University/Germany
Should Utilitarians Recommend Non-Consequentialist Autonomous Vehicles?
Utilitarianism recommends actions and policies that maximize the net sum of benefits minus harms. But the net sum of benefits minus harms often depends on a specific degree of idealization. So,
what is the correct degree under which Utilitarianism should aim at the overall best possible result with regards to autonomous vehicles? For practical purposes, we believe in empirical informed
utilitarianism, a version of utilitarianism that recommends actions and policies that promise to maximize the good in the light of empirical studies.
With Bonnefon et al. (2016, http://science.sciencemag.org/content/352/6293/1573 see also Joshua Greene’s reaction: https://projects.iq.harvard.edu/files/mcl/files/greene-driverless-dilemma-sci16.pdf) a series of studies with impact for empirically informed consequentialism has been published. They found that even though many “participants approve of [utilitarian] autonomous vehicles[, they] would prefer not to ride in such vehicles” (teaser of the Science magazine for Bonnefon’s publication). This apparently implies that utilitarian autonomous cars would have it much harder to gain significant market share than other autonomous cars. Possible buyers can be expected to recoil from buying or using autonomous cars because of ‘trolley problem’-like consideration that would let the car sacrifice its driver if it could thus save several people. With regards to the fact that those situations will obtain sparsely and that the overall effects of autonomous vehicles would be positive when achieving significant market share, consequentialists should recommend cars that promote the market penetration of this technology. Thus, utilitarianists should reject this omnipresent trolley problem for autonomous vehicles, arguing that future research should focus on the question of how to design systems in a way that overall maximizes the good instead. We discuss and contrast two approaches: combining hidden utilitarian software doping with only seemingly non-utilitarian cars and a transparent, non-opaque explanation based trust-enhancing variant of truly non-consequentialist cars. Finally we want to indicate that our results can be generalized to more classes of autonomous systems, if not autonomous systems in general.
Steven Sverdlik, Southern Methodist University/USA
Bentham on Temptation and Deterrence
Bentham’s An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation includes an important chapter that explains how the Principle of Utility applies to the issue of the severity of punishments. Bentham notes that the Principle seems to require threatening agents who are strongly tempted to offend with severe punishments, in order to deter them. He grants that this is largely correct. Critics have found his position to be objectionable, since some tempted offenders are thought to merit leniency. In the first section of the paper I explain and slightly revise Bentham’s critical Rule 1, which explains how severe a punishment needs to be in order to deter a potential offender. Section II examines an example of Herbert Hart, which is supposed to make clear the problematic features of Bentham’s position. It describes a starving man who steals bread. I argue that Bentham’s principles establishing when an act should be treated as legally justified or excused can be used to reply plausibly to Hart. In Section III a revised version of Hart’s example is presented, which poses more of a challenge to Bentham. I state the argument that Bentham offers concerning the punishment of tempted offenders. It is mistaken in four subtle ways. The crucial mistake is the claim that punishment levels must be efficacious in deterring all the potential offenders who are not to have legal justifications and excuses. Section IV examines Bentham’s views on when offenders act in extenuating circumstances. This material actually considers an example of a starving man who steals food, and it plausibly suggests that utilitarianism can favor leniency for him. Bentham’s critics misunderstood some of the replies that Bentham has available to their objection. But Bentham’s argument shows that he did not fully understand how the Principle of Utility applies to the activity of deterrence.
Koji Tachibana, Kumamoto University/Japan
Neurofeedback-Based Moral Enhancement and Moral Reason
Some neuroethicists criticize the very possibility of the moral bioenhancement technique for the reason that a moral state acquired through the bioenhancement technique is not actually a moral
state because such a state is not reached through moral reasoning nor accompanied by moral reason [1-3]. In this presentation, I will examine this criticism and argue that neurofeedback-based
moral enhancement is capable of putting aside this criticism. First, I will survey the recent research on neurofeedback and show that its efficacy against a variety of mental and psychiatric
disorders may result in a tool for neurofeedback-based moral enhancement [4, 5]. Second, I will examine whether neurofeedback-based moral enhancement may change a participant's moral feelings,
judgments, and/or behaviors without infusing the moral reason. Although some argue that moral bioenhancement techniques may enhance the faculty of moral reasoning and accordingly provide moral
reasons [6, 7], I will provide a different claim that neurofeedback-based moral enhancement can be an acceptable tool even if it may not enhance any moral reason or reasoning. In conclusion, I
argue that neurofeedback-based moral enhancement will dismiss the criticism based on moral reason.
 Glannon, W. (2015). Reflections on neuroenhancement. In Handbook of Neuroethics, ed. by J. Clausen, and N. Levy, 1251-65. New York, NY: Springer.
 Harris, J. (2016). Moral blindness - The gift of the god machine. Neuroethics, 9: 269-73.
 Shook, J., and J. Giordano. (2016). Moral enhancement? Acknowledging limitations of neurotechnology and morality. AJOB Neuroscience, 7(2): 118-20.
 Jotterand, F., and J. Giordano. (2015). Real-time functional magnetic resonance Imaging-Brain-Computer interfacing in the assessment and treatment of psychopathy: potential and challenges. In Handbook of Neuroethics, ed. by J. Clausen, and N. Levy, 763-81. New York, NY: Springer.
 Nakazawa, E., K. Yamamoto, K. Tachibana, T. Soichiro, Y. Takimoto, and A. Akabayashi. (2016). Ethics of decoded neurofeedback in clinical research, treatment, and moral enhancement. AJOB Neuroscience 7(2): 110-7.
 Kabasenche, W. (2016). Moral formation and moral enhancement. AJOB Neuroscience, 7(2): 130-1.
 Persson, I., and J. Savulescu. (2016). Moral bioenhancement, freedom and reason. Neuroethics, 9: 263-8
Piero Tarantino, Sciences Po Law School/France
'As If It Were True': Bentham’s Theory of Real and Fictitious Entities
This paper aims to investigate Jeremy Bentham’s theory of real and fictitious entities in order to understand better the philosophical foundations of the way in which we constitute and structure the world in which we live and interact. Bentham questioned the nature of the elements making up the various domains of knowledge, because he was convinced of the falsity of certain linguistic constructs which contain an implicit ontological claim. His fictionalist approach challenges the effective correspondence of beliefs and statements to an alleged external reality, on which the idea of truth resides, giving rise to the view that the human mind has, through language, autonomous constructive ability in conceiving of the world. Bentham understood a fictitious entity as something false, which is, however, regarded as if it were true. Terms such as motion, quality, relation, cause, virtue, goodness, obligation, right and power represent mere artefacts characterized by a nominal form of existence. They are products of the activity of the human mind carried out on sensory experience, which provides the real foundations from which the human mind constructs a fictitious ontology, made up of linguistic elements. Conceptual notions are contrivances aimed at settling the problem of enabling human beings to think, communicate and act: on the one hand, they are instrumental in our image of the world, giving an order and making sense of experience; on the other, they claim to orient and direct people’s behaviour. The activity of the human mind basically consists in creating an artificial framework, without which knowledge and action, and more generally social life, would be impossible. The originality, importance and contribution of Bentham’s fictionalism to our ideas of reality and society can scarcely be overstated. Nonetheless, his theory of real and fictitious entities still remains largely unexplored and deserves much more attention than it has hitherto received.
Christian Tarsney, University of Groningen/Netherlands
Non-Identity, Times Infinity
This paper describes a new difficulty for utilitarian comparison of worlds that contain infinite positive and negative value. After setting out the basic problem, I give a prima facie defense of a solution that has been suggested, in several slightly different forms, in the recent literature: namely, that the difference in value between two worlds is the sum of differences in value at each possible value location. For this view to be plausible, "value locations" must be identified with conscious beings, rather than spatiotemporal regions -- otherwise, an act that rearranged all the conscious beings in the universe, while making them all worse off, could count as an improvement. So specified, this "sum-of-differences" view is both theoretically well-motivated and delivers intuitively ideal results, when we are comparing worlds that differ at only finitely many value locations. But, for an agent who has, or might have, infinitely many conscious beings in her causal future, there is a problem: The reasoning behind Parfit's non-identity problem suggests that any two options available to this agent will result in worlds that differ at infinitely many value locations, by amounts that do not converge absolutely and hence cannot be summed. In such an "infinite non-identity" (INI) world, the sum-of-differences approach to comparing infinite worlds is no help. An intuitive response is to suggest that, if two worlds contain disjoint countable sets of value locations at the same value level, those two sets simply "cancel out." But this "cancellation strategy" has the unattractive practical consequence that, in most INI worlds, future generations simply don't matter, and the unattractive theoretical consequence of generating preference cycles. This suggests a worrisome conclusion: Either the spatiotemporal arrangement of conscious beings has intrinsic moral significance, or aggregative consequentialism implies nihilism for agents in INI worlds.
Frej Klem Thomsen, Roskilde University/Denmark
The Badness of Surveillance
Surveillance is a topic that has attracted increasing scholarly attention over the past decade. In spite of this, we still lack a clear understanding of the concept of surveillance as well as a
coherent account of what makes surveillance morally bad, when it is bad. This article attempts to provide both.
The article first develops a concise definition of surveillance, exploring the necessary and jointly sufficient conditions, arguing that we should employ a purely descriptive concept, resisting the temptation to moralise surveillance, or to restrict it to contexts of privacy.
It next explores a privacy-based account of the badness of surveillance – the idea that surveillance is morally bad, when it is, because it reduces privacy. I review several prominent theories of privacy and distinguish three revised conceptions of privacy, focused on access, accessibility, and control respectively.
Sections four and five present two constraints that the privacy-based account of the badness of surveillance must operate under based on two prominent challenges to a right to privacy. Jointly, I argue, these challenges entail that the privacy-based account of the badness of surveillance must take a particular, restricted shape, which limits the type of argument available to the proponent of that account.
In section six I summarise the privacy-based account as it has been developed throughout the article, as the notion that surveillance is bad, when it is, because there is a pro tanto reason against
reducing persons’ privacy just because doing so reduces their privacy. I briefly clarify how each of the three conceptions of privacy might work within this framework before critically assessing the account.
In the final section, I introduce an alternative and more plausible account of what makes surveillance morally bad (when it is bad) – that surveillance can cause harm, and is morally bad when and to the extent that it causes such harm. I briefly develop the account by exploring the myriad ways in which surveillance can cause harm, before I discuss a number of potential objections, including apparent counterexamples involving intuitively wrongful but harmless surveillance, and the idea that the account’s appeal will be limited to thinkers with particular types of moral background theories.
Johannes Treutlein, Foundational Research Institute/Germany
Global Consequentialism for Machines
Daniel Dennett said that “AI makes philosophy honest.” Well, at least trying to make very sophisticated machines ethical challenges us to formalize, in a specific way, many notions in philosophy. On the other hand, the different capabilities of machines enable us to find novel solutions to these challenges. One challenge concerns the evaluands of consequentialist theories. Motivated by the criticism of direct act consequentialism, other versions, such as rule consequentialism or global consequentialism, have been proposed. These theories lack the formal simplicity of act consequentialism and thus when it comes to building ethical machines, pose challenges such as how to aggregate the theory’s evaluation of rules and dispositions into decisions between acts. I argue that there are two decision-theoretic ideas that allow us, at least for the purpose of machine ethics, to keep act consequentialism and its formal simplicity while also capture many of the attractive features of alternatives to act consequentialism. The first one is the adoption of policy-selection as opposed to act-selection, making use of a machine's ability to bind itself to a sequence of actions. For instance, this allows the agent to keep promises. The second is that an evidential decision procedure is able to capture the notion that a group of rational agents should follow common rules that leave everyone better off than if everyone were to individually select acts based on their direct causal consequences. Since this depends on the agents' ability to model each other’s decision procedures, it applies especially to machines with such capabilities.
Piers Turner, The Ohio State University/USA
Is Mill a Luck Egalitarian?
In criticizing luck egalitarianism, Elizabeth Anderson has suggested that John Stuart Mill is a proponent of her preferred relational egalitarian view. Yet luck egalitarians have also noted Mill’s attention to mitigating the role that brute luck plays in determining people’s opportunities and outcomes in life. In Principles of Political Economy, for instance, he writes that "[t]he proportioning of remuneration to work done is really just only in so far as the more or less of the work is a matter of choice: when it depends on natural difference of strength or capacity, this principle of remuneration is itself an injustice." It seems clear that Mill’s utilitarian approach incorporates elements of both relational and luck egalitarian views. The key question becomes how and to what extent each element enters Mill’s utilitarian thought. In an excellent recent book, Joseph Perksy has argued that Mill’s relational egalitarianism should be seen as a “transitional stage” to his luck egalitarianism. I think this is not quite right. Both views express aspects of Mill’s commitment to impartiality or equal consideration. But it is relational egalitarianism that captures his ideal of a well-developed social morality among equals. In fact, his concern to mitigate the effects of brute luck should partly be understood through this lens, and it has limits that distinguish his views from most luck egalitarians. Ultimately, then, I think Anderson’s suggestion is correct, though a full view of Mill’s egalitarianism must also include a careful consideration of his comments about the role of luck in affecting people’s opportunities and outcomes.
Hiroki Ueno, Hitotsubashi University/Japan
The Relationship Between the Principles of Utility and Justice in the Theory of Moral Sentiments: Does Adam Smith's Moral Theory Truly Stand Against Humean Utilitarianism?
After ‘Das Adam Smith problem’ was discussed in light of contextualism, more than a few scholars have paid greater attention to the influence of David Hume's A Treatise of Human Nature on Smith's moral philosophy. The Smith scholarship appears to derive more sophisticated explication of the socio-psychological processes that function behind the commercial society described in the Wealth of Nations by referring to the common Scottish background of the theory of human social nature. On the other hand, some of them also attempt to emphasise the crucial differences between Smith and his Scottish peers, particularly Hume. One of the focal points in this differentiation is TMS's criticism regarding Hume's utilitarian explanation of generalised sympathy. This paper asserts that Smith's self-perception is somewhat exaggerated, and that not only his political economy, but his moral philosophy as a whole should be interpreted as being more dependent on the principle of utility than we have assumed. This interpretation is quite sceptical of the Kantian reading of TMS, which sometimes asserts that the concept of the impartial spectator is a kind of pseudo-transcendentalism, while concurring with the opinion that—apart from his apriorism—Kant's basic format for introducing the categorical imperative has much in common with the Scots' method of generalising the self. The paper also argues that, while the two principles are distinct, Smith admits that almost all moral actions and institutions suitable for the law of justice are also appropriate in respect to public utility. More importantly, he recognises that moral judgements from a utilitarian perspective should have priority over the natural sense of justice in some cases, which indicates that his moral theory has little room for the Kantian understanding of morality, wherein something morally just and yet detrimental to public welfare is regarded as being essential.
Charlotte Unruh, University of Southampton/UK
Letting the Climate Change
Most deontologists accept the Doctrine of Doing and Allowing (DDA): doing harm is harder to justify than allowing harm, everything else being equal.
Recent work by Ingmar Persson and Jason Hanna has posed an interesting new challenge for defenders of the DDA: how do we account for cases of letting oneself do harm? These cases are intuitively different from standard cases of doing and allowing harm. Persson and Hanna argue that the deontologist has problems to account for this intuitive difference (Persson 2013; Hanna 2015a, 2015b).
This paper further develops this new challenge by exploring it within the context of another important ethical issue: intergenerational ethics.
In the first part of the paper, I show that the task of solving this problem is more urgent than it has been acknowledged so far. Cases of letting oneself do harm are widespread. Indeed, they are central to intergenerational ethics.
In the second part of the paper, I show that the challenge is more difficult than it has been acknowledged so far. This is due to the particular role that temporal proximity seems to play in our intuitions on about cases that involve future, rather than only present, generations.
First, according to our intuitions about cases, temporal proximity of the harming behaviour seems to matter morally. It is harder to justify allowing harm to our more recent victims than it is to justify allowing harm to our earlier victims. Second, according to our intuitions about cases, temporal proximity of the harmful outcome seems to matter morally. Doing harm is harder to justify if there are less opportunities to undo the harm in the future.
The deontologist defending the DDA will have to give an account of these intuitions that is applicable to both future and present generations.
Hanna, Jason. 2015a. “Doing, Allowing, and the Moral Relevance of the Past.” Journal of Moral Philosophy 12 (6): 677–698.
———. 2015b. “Enabling Harm, Doing Harm, and Undoing One’s Own Behavior.” Ethics 126 (1): 68–90. https://doi.org/10.1086/682190.
Persson, Ingmar. 2013. From Morality to the End of Reason: An Essay on Rights, Reasons, and Responsibility. OUP Oxford.
Philippe Van Basshuysen, London School of Economics/UK
The Repugnant Conclusion and Measuring Well-Being in Possible Populations
I argue that Parfit's repugnant conclusion is the consequence of a flawed reading of well-being in possible populations. Parfit asks us to compare the total welfare of possible populations, which
requires measurement and aggregation of the well-beings of the members of those populations on a ratio scale. However, recent results from the philosophy of well-being show that measurement on a
ratio scale is impossible for an all-encompassing notion of well-being that Parfit and other population ethicists have been interested in. I argue that instead, comparing different population
sizes requires accounting for how their sizes affect their members. The notion of well-being population ethicists should be interested in is thus contextualised to such factors as the impact of
the depletion of natural resources, migration pressures, or the scarcity of housing. If well-being in possible populations can be measured in this way then utilitarianism recommends reasonably
small population sizes.
An important implication of my argument is that population ethics should become more sensitive to results from empirical sciences. For nothing of interest for population ethics follows from merely positing a population of 10 billion people, 'all with a very high quality of life', unless it is likely that the well-being in such a population would indeed be high. We must draw on empirical results from development economists, demographers, and scientists of well-being to get epistemic access to such populations, and these results show that well-being in those populations is likely not high.
Tatjana Visak, University of Mannheim/Germany
New arguments for existential benefits and harms
It is widely accepted that the standard counterfactual comparative account of benefit and harm cannot account for so-called existential benefits and harms. After all, determining whether some event benefits or harms an individual requires a comparison of the individual’s lifetime welfare in the outcome in which the event takes place with the individual’s lifetime welfare in the alternative outcome. In choices between existence and non-existence, no such comparison is possible, since an individual has no lifetime welfare score in an outcome in which she does not exist.
Does this mean that so-called existential benefits and harms are no real benefits or harms, or does it mean that we need to accept exceptions to the standard account of benefit and harm? Jeff McMahan (2013) and, more explicitly, Derek Parfit (2017) presented new arguments for making exceptions to the standard account. They argue that existential benefits and harms are not the only cases that warrant exceptions to the standard account. More generally, they suggest that it is not the case that all ordinary benefits and harms are comparative, while all existential benefits and harms are noncomparative. I point out that these arguments for existential benefits and harms fail.
Peter Weibel, ZKM Karlsruhe/Germany
Constitutional Code - The Heart of Fiction
No abstract available at the moment.
Logan Wigglesworth, Rice University/USA
A Finer Measure for Higher Pleasure
John Stuart Mill famously advanced a modified form of utilitarianism that distinguishes higher pleasures from lower ones through their difference in quality. Getting clear on what exactly a quality difference amounts to has proven difficult. Ben Saunders interprets quality as simply a “happiness-making characteristic” that makes higher pleasures “unit-for-unit better.” On Jonathan Riley’s account, which many have deemed the standard view, a “higher pleasure is equivalent to an infinite number of units of the lower pleasure.” In this paper, I will show the merits and flaws of both approaches. I will argue that the best way to interpret Mill’s quality differences is to abandon weighing relations in favor of an enabling/disabling relation: instead of being either infinitely, or unit-for-unit, better, higher pleasures silence the effect of lower pleasures. In other words, the absence of higher pleasures is required in order for the lower pleasures to be satisfying. This interpretation not only remains faithful to Mill’s text, but keeps quality differences irreducible to differences in quantity, preserves the lexical dominance of higher pleasures, and keeps Mill a consistent value monist.
Hayden Wilkinson, The Australian National University
Infinite, Invariant, Impartial Consequentialism
Utilitarianism has trouble with infinities. If our universe contains infinitely many instances of moral value (as is suggested by contemporary cosmology), then standard formulations of
utilitarianism imply that the total value in the universe is infinite (or otherwise undefined). This holds for all actions we might take. In any given case, then, which act maximises moral value?
Any of them will suffice. All acts are permissible, and no acts are prohibited, no matter how repugnant.
Fortunately, solutions have been proposed. Foremost among these is the expansionist approach of Vallentyne and Kagan. Instead of comparing the universal total, their approach aggregates value across the world in some particular order, and then compares the cumulative total. If the cumulative total of one possible world surpasses another and remains in the lead forevermore, then that is considered the better world.
This approach encounters a serious problem, as do several others. It requires an order in which to aggregate value, and the only applicable natural ordering is the positioning of value in space and time. This positioning, however, is subject to special relativity – the order is relative to the speed of the observer. There are cases, then, in which we might reverse moral judgements simply by moving at speed.
I show that there is a solution. First, we can ascribe value not to discrete points but to regions of continuous points, in proportion to their duration. Second, we can order value according to the spacetime interval – the only speed-invariant measure available. This gives us an observer-independent form of utilitarianism, albeit not a complete one. Its adoption also has substantive implications in the problem cases described by Cain and Temkin.
Christopher Woodard, University of Nottingham/UK
Utilitarianism and Legitimacy
In political life, and in political philosophy, we are often interested in whether some institution, procedure, or decision is legitimate. For example, we appeal to considerations of legitimacy
when we must arrive at a decision, but we disagree about the grounds for decision.
Though legitimacy is a central topic in political philosophy, there is very little discussion of it from a utilitarian point of view. This paper aims to stimulate interest in legitimacy among utilitarians, by proposing a utilitarian theory of legitimacy. According to this theory, legitimacy is a non-normative property with considerable normative significance. It is a special kind of feasibility constraint: for a procedure to be legitimate is for it to be the object of sufficient de facto acceptance to generate compliance with the decisions it yields without use or threat of force.
Obviously, a procedure can be legitimate in this sense whilst being morally wrong, and unjust, and failing to maximise utility. But this is just what utilitarians should want from an account of legitimacy, if it is to serve some useful role in their theories. Moreover, the fact that a procedure is legitimate in this sense will usually matter to utilitarians, since it helps to describe which actions are politically feasible without use or threat of force, with all of their costs. Even in this ‘thin’ sense, legitimacy typically gives rise to content-independent reasons in the sense explained by Hart (1958: 100-02) and Raz (1986: 35).
Hart, H. L. A. 1958. ‘Legal and Moral Obligation’. In A. I. Melden (ed.) Essays in
Moral Philosophy. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 82-107.
Raz, J. 1986. The Morality of Freedom. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
Satoshi Yamazaki, Kochi University/Japan
The Possibility of Indirect Utilitarian Strategy in Pigou’s Welfare Economics
It is typically believed that Pigou’s welfare economics is the incarnation of utilitarian moral principle, whose authorities are Bentham and Sidgwick. For instance, Y. Edgeworth (1913) observes
that Pigou has drawn inspiration from Sidgwick on wealth and welfare and that the good which philanthropy and the public sector should seek to realize is defined by Pigou in accordance with
Sidgwick’s utilitarianism. However, the interpretation of Pigou’s ethics has now become rather controversial, because several recent studies have tried to correct that typical understanding from
each particular point of view, which indicate non-utilitarian aspect of Pigou in his welfare economics. Actually, Pigou has various faces that induce us to interpret in different ways his
position. Thus, we begin by briefly surveying and examining previous works regarding how to interpret his moral principle in welfare economics (whether utilitarian or non-utilitarian), in order
to see if our new observation (as is indicated in the title) has superior merits.
Actually, my recent research shows Pigou has adopted the three different approaches to the enhancement of people’s well-being: the mental states, desire satisfaction, and need satisfaction approaches. Of these, the last one is thought to be non-welfarist, so that Pigou may be supposed to deviate from utilitarianism. In fact, when Pigou argues the prescription of ‘the national minimum’ (a so-called safety net in present terms), he places its validity not on desire or utility but on basic need. Moreover, he, under a certain condition, admits the priority of satisfaction of needs over pleasure and utility, which directly means that the prescription of the safety net does not rely on utility maximization. Then, how should we explain Pigou’s position? In this article, we would like to explore a new exposition of Pigou’s moral strategy in the light of the notion of indirect utilitarianism.
Sisheng Zhang, Universitat Pompeu Fabra/Spain
If You're an Egalitarian, How Come You Like Lotteries?
In abstract cases, we favour equality as a just principle for resource-distribution . When not everyone can get the same (level of) resource, however, Rawlsians demand fair equality of
opportunity (FEO): that everyone should get a fair chance to compete for the resource. Often, lottery is endorsed as a procedure reflecting FEO because its results are least likely to be
subjected to arbitrary influence, while minimising inefficient use of resources .
Using a modified case inspired by Harry Frankfurt , Scarcity, I argue that lottery should be rejected as a fair procedure for egalitarians. To clarify, lottery being problematic for egalitarians does not entail the total abandonment of such procedure.
1. There are ten identical patients;
2. The hospital only has enough medication to save five, and is impossible to get more medicine;
3. The medication only works only if one receives sufficient dosage (e.g., taking half dosage does not work) ;
4. The causation of illness is unknown;
5. All patients' admittances into the hospital are voluntary;
Many find it unproblematic to save five. The real question is which five to save (consequently, which five not to). Many find lottery a plausible way to determine the identity of the lucky five. However, I argue: lottery is problematic both intrinsically and instrumentally.
Intrinsically, lottery is problematic as the procedural easiness can corrupt the value of actual outcomes that lottery options represent when the one is fully dependent upon the lottery outcomes. Lottery is instrumentally problematic as all of its outcome are tampered by bad brute luck (which should be compensated for according to luck egalitarians).
Michael Zimmerman, University of North Carolina at Greensboro/USA
Willful Ignorance and Moral Responsibility
Some agents are willfully ignorant regarding the behavior in which they propose to engage; they deliberately forgo the opportunity to inquire into the features that determine the behavior’s moral status. Examples include driving a car across an international border, suspecting that—but not verifying whether—the car contains contraband; buying cheap clothing, suspecting that—but not verifying whether—it was manufactured in a sweatshop; and so on. The law (when it applies) typically holds such agents to be equally as culpable as those who engage in the same behavior but who are not ignorant of the relevant details, and legal and moral philosophers have tended to agree with this verdict. In order to assess this verdict, I present a paradigm case in which ignorance of wrongdoing affords its agent an excuse for that wrongdoing, and I compare and contrast this case with a paradigm case of willfully ignorant behavior. I argue that willfully ignorant agents may not be culpable for their behavior at all, let alone equally as culpable as those wrongdoers who know full well what it is they are doing.
Alexandra Zinke, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology/Germany
Two Ways to Maximize Preference Satisfaction
Preference utilitarianism states that an action is morally good iff it maximizes overall preference satisfaction. In principle, there are two ways to satisfy preferences: you hold the preferences
fixed and alter the preference-oriented facts such that given preferences of the moral agents are satisfied, or you change the preferences such that they fit the facts. While standard preference
utilitarianism focuses on the first strategy, the present talk will exploit the second strategy.
Intuitively, maximizing preference satisfaction by preference change often seems morally wrong. Just imagine a preference adjustment machine that changes the preferences of moral agents such that they fit the facts. Once an agent is plugged to the machine, she prefers most what is actually the case. (Note that the machine is supposed to chance preferences of all orders, i.e. also possible higher-order preferences not to muddle with one’s lower-order preferences.) Such a machine creates a world with a maximal overall amount of preference satisfaction, but its installation seems morally wrong or, at least, not morally obligatory.
However, a slight reformulation of the utilitarian thesis seems to avoid this worry: An action is morally good iff it maximizes satisfaction of the given preferences. In the second part of the talk, I will reject this strategy by presenting examples in which changing the preferences of agents indeed seems the morally right way to reach preference satisfaction. The real philosophical challenge is thus to distinguish those cases where it is morally right to influence the preference ordering of an agent from those cases where it isn’t. The talk ends with the skeptical outlook that this distinction might not be justifiable by purely utilitarian principles.
Thomas Zoglauer, BTU Cottbus-Senftenberg/Germany
Gambling with technological risks: a case of dirty hands?
We are living in a “risk society” and are often confronted with situations where our decisions can have unforeseeable and far-reaching consequences. Our actions depend on external contingencies
and chancy elements which are beyond our control. I will argue that acting under risk and uncertainty represents a special case of dirty hands. Gambling with risks contains all typical
characteristics of dirty hands dilemmas: We are torn between utilitarian cost-benefit analysis and the deep-seated moral intuition to follow a risk-aversive strategy. There is no clear-cut moral
solution, because the uncertainties and insecurities blur the right-wrong distinction. Decisions under risk are like any other dirty hands dilemmas accompanied by moral feelings like regret,
remorse, and guilt. As an example of risk gambling I will discuss genetic engineering using CRISPR-Cas9 technology.
In cases of impending harm or catastrophe our moral intuition warns us not to gamble with the life of people and to keep on the safer side. Such risk-aversive rules are known as the maximin principle or the precautionary principle. I will show that these principles can be a good guidance for decisions under uncertainty. But the fundamental problem still remains that whatever choice you make, whether you act or refrain from action, whether you act risk aversive or run full risk, you cannot eliminate the risk of failure. Actors cannot escape making decisions, they become entangled in a hazardous game and thus, as a symptom and side effect of this development, dirty hands loom large.
Tomasz Zuradski, Jagiellonian University/Poland
The Axiology of the Cost–Benefit Approach to Rescue Medicine
The aim of my paper is to discuss the axiology of the cost–benefit approach (CBA) assumed by many authors in medical ethics (e.g. Wilkinson 2009; Rieder 2017) to analyze rescue decisions when there are radically uncertain prognoses and a significant risk that, even if a patient (an infant or an adult) survives rescue procedure, her life will be full of suffering. I want to analyze whether it is possible to compare decisions in terms of betterness in the name of a patient who may or may not exist in at least one of the possible worlds depending on this decision; and what may it mean that death may sometimes be reasonably preferred in the patient’s name to severe and enduring morbidity. In rescue cases the very sense of using CBA seems to be undermined not only because the perspective must shift from existing to nonexisting persons, which results in difficulty in providing a complete ranking of choices, but also because different kinds of (dis)values are attached to “likely harms” and “likely benefits” depending on whether the patients exists or no (e.g., comparative/noncomparative individual-affecting, impersonal). I discuss some arguments from population ethics, e.g. the view that evaluation in such cases could be made only from the perspective of the world in which a patient exists (e.g. we could say that if a patient exists in a possible world A but not in a world X, then A is better for him than X, although X would not be worse for him than A, if X obtained, because a patient does not exist in X) (Arhhenius, Rabinowicz 2015). Finally, I argue that CBA in rescue cases should be understood metaphorically.