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The Parfit Population Problem

  • Don Locke (a1)

Derek Parfit's Reasons and Persons is a long, difficult and fascinating book, inside which three shorter, clearer and better books are struggling to get out. The third of these shorter but better books deals with the problem of Future Generations, and that is the book I want to discuss. In it Parfit tries, but fails, to find a theory—Theory X, he calls it—which will deal with various problems and issues which he develops, and in particular the issue which I will call the Parfit Population Problem, the problem of how many people there ought to be. In this paper I offer not so much a theory as a suggestion as to what the solution(s) might be.

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1 D., Parfit, Reasons and Persons (Oxford University Press, 1984).

2 T., Hurka, ‘Value and Population Size’, Ethics 93 (1983), 496507.

3 M., Slote, ‘Satisficing Consequentialism’, Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, Supplementary Volume, LVIII (1984), 139163.

4 J., Bennett, ‘On Maximising Happiness’, Obligations to Future Generations, R. I.Sikora and B. Barry (eds) (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1978), 6173.

5 For some suggestions of a non-Utilitarian sort, see J., Bennett, op. cit.

6 This paper has benefited greatly from the comments of members of the Philosophy Departments, both staff and students, at the Universities of Warwick, Durham and East Anglia.

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  • ISSN: 0031-8191
  • EISSN: 1469-817X
  • URL: /core/journals/philosophy
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