The Very Repugnant Conclusion

by Stuart_Armstrong 7mo18th Jan 201914 comments

27


I haven't seen the very repugnant conclusion mentioned much here, so I thought I'd add it, as I need it as an example in a subsequent post.

Basically, the repugnant conclusion says:

  • Let be a world filled with very happy people leading meaningful lives. Then, according to total utilitarianism, there is a world which is better than , where everyone has lives barely worth living - but the population is huge.

Some people come to accept the repugnant conclusion, sometimes reluctantly. More difficult to accept is the very repugnant conclusion:

  • Let be a world filled with very happy people leading meaningful lives. Then, according to total utilitarianism, there is a world which is better than , where there is a population of suffering people much larger than the total population of , and everyone else has lives barely worth living - but the population is very huge.

This one feels more negative than the standard repugnant conclusion, maybe because it strikes at our egalitarian and prioritarian instincts, or maybe because of the nature of suffering.

Anyway, my motto on these things is generally:

  • When you find morally wrong outcomes that contradict your moral theory, then enrich your moral theory rather than twisting your moral judgements.