Skip to main content
    • Aa
    • Aa

Non-Identity Matters, Sometimes


Suppose the only difference between the effects of two actions is to whom they apply: either to parties who would – or would not – exist if the actions were not performed. Is this a morally significant difference? This is one of the central questions raised by the Non-Identity Problem. Derek Parfit answers no, defending what he calls the ‘No-Difference View’. I argue that Parfit is mistaken and that sometimes this difference is morally significant. I do this by formulating a familiar kind of example in a new way. I make use of some findings in social psychology to help deflect counterexamples to my view. I then show how my view withstands Parfit's latest argument in favour of the No-Difference View. I conclude with a brief discussion of some questions my argument raises for consequentialist moral theory.

Linked references
Hide All

This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

Elizabeth Harman , ‘Can We Harm and Benefit in Creating?’, Philosophical Perspectives 18 (2004), pp. 89113

Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky , ‘Prospect Theory: An Analysis of Decision under Risk’, Econometrica 47 (1979), pp. 263–92

Stacey Swain , Joshua Alexander and Jonathan M. Weinberg , ‘The Instability of Philosophical Intuitions: Running Hot and Cold on Truetemp’, Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 76 (2008), pp. 138–55

Molly Gardner and Justin Weinberg , ‘How Lives Measure Up’, Acta Analytica 28 (2013), pp. 3148

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

  • ISSN: 0953-8208
  • EISSN: 1741-6183
  • URL: /core/journals/utilitas
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 2
Total number of PDF views: 23 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 212 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 20th July 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.