Hostname: page-component-848d4c4894-pjpqr Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2024-06-19T18:30:09.823Z Has data issue: false hasContentIssue false

What Should We Do About Future Generations?

Impossibility of Parfit's Theory X

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 December 2008

Yew-Kwang Ng
Affiliation:
Monash University, Australia

Extract

Parfit's requirements for an ideal Theory X cannot be fully met since the Mere Addition Principle and Non-Antiegalitarianism imply the Repugnant Conclusion: Theory X does not exist. However, since the Repugnant Conclusion is really compelling, the Impersonal Total Principle should be adopted for impartial comparisons concerning future generations. Nevertheless, where our own interests are affected, we may yet choose to be partial, trading off our concern for future (or others') goodness with our self-interests. Theory X' (maximization of number-dampened total utility) meets all Parfit's requirements except the Mere Addition Principle in less compelling cases.

Type
Essays
Copyright
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1989

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)

References

REFERENCES

Bayles, M. D. 1980. Morality and Population Policy. University of Alabama Press.Google Scholar
Blackorby, C., and Donaldson, D. 1984. “Social Criteria for Evaluating Population Change.” Journal of Public Economics 25:1333.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Dasgupta, P. 1988. “Lives and Well-being.” Social Choice and Welfare 5:103–26.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hurka, T. 1983. “Value and Population Size.” Ethics 93:496507.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Ng, Y-K. 1975. “Bentham or Bergson? Finite Sensibility, Utility Functions and Social Welfare Functions.” Review of Economic Studies 42:545–70.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Ng, Y-K. 1983. “Some Broader Issues of Social Choice.” In Sociol Choice and Welfare, edited by Pattanaik, P. K. and Salles, M.. Amsterdam: North Holland.Google Scholar
Ng, Y-K. 1984. Expected Subjective Utility: Is the Neumann-Morgenstern Utility the Same as the Neoclassical's?Social Choice and Welfare 1:177–86.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Ng, Y-K. 1986. “Social Criteria for Evaluating Population Change: An Alternative to the Blackorby-Donaldson Criterion.” Journal of Public Economics 29:375–81.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Ng, Y-K. 1988. “Welfarism and Utilitarianism: A Rehabilitation.” Monash Economics Seminar Paper No. 11/88.Google Scholar
Parfit, D. 1982. “Future Generations: Further Problems.” Philosophy and Public Affairs 11.Google Scholar
Parfit, D. 1984. Reasons and Persons. Oxford: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar
Parfit, D. 1986. “Overpopulation and the Quality of Life.” In Applied Ethics, edited by Singer, Peter. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
Sen, A. K. 1961. “On Optimising the Rate of Saving.” Economic Journal 71:479–96.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Simon, J. L. 1981. The Ultimate Resource. Princeton: Princeton University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar