Economics and Philosophy



Essay

INFINITE UTILITARIANISM: MORE IS ALWAYS BETTER 1


LUC LAUWERS a1 and PETER VALLENTYNE a2
a1 Katholieke Universiteit Leuven
a2 University of Missouri-Columbia

Article author query
lauwers l   [Google Scholar] 
vallentyne p   [Google Scholar] 
 

Abstract

We address the question of how finitely additive moral value theories (such as utilitarianism) should rank worlds when there are an infinite number of locations of value (people, times, etc.). In the finite case, finitely additive theories satisfy both Weak Pareto and a strong anonymity condition. In the infinite case, however, these two conditions are incompatible, and thus a question arises as to which of these two conditions should be rejected. In a recent contribution, Hamkins and Montero (2000) have argued in favor of an anonymity-like isomorphism principle and against Weak Pareto. After casting doubt on their criticism of Weak Pareto, we show how it, in combination with certain other plausible principles, generates a plausible and fairly strong principle for the infinite case. We further show that where locations are the same in all worlds, but have no natural order, this principle turns out to be equivalent to a strengthening of a principle defended by Vallentyne and Kagan (1997), and also to a weakened version of the catching-up criterion developed by Atsumi (1965) and by von Weizsäcker (1965).



Footnotes

1 For valuable comments, we would like to thank Marc Fleurbaey, Bart Capéau, Joel Hamkins, Barbara Montero, Tim Mulgan, and two anonymous referees for this journal.