A Defense of Average Utilitarianism

Utilitas 27 (4): 389-424 (2015).

48 Pages Posted: 19 Oct 2017

See all articles by Michael Pressman

Michael Pressman

Research Fellow at the Civil Jury Project at NYU School of Law

Date Written: 2015

Abstract

Seemingly every theory of population ethics is confronted with unpalatable implications. While various approaches to the subject have been taken, including non-consequentialist approaches, this area has been dominated by utilitarian thought. The two main approaches to population ethics have been total utilitarianism (“TU”) and average utilitarianism (“AU”). According to TU, we should seek to bring about the state of affairs that maximizes the total amount of happiness. According to AU, we should seek to bring about the state of affairs that maximizes average per capita happiness. Both theories have been afflicted by seemingly strong objections, and as a result, numerous variations and hybrids have been introduced. Despite the widespread disagreement in the field, though, a near consensus has developed in rejecting AU as an absurd view. In this paper, however, I will go against the grain and argue that AU is the theory of population ethics that we should endorse.

Suggested Citation

Pressman, Michael, A Defense of Average Utilitarianism (2015). Utilitas 27 (4): 389-424 (2015)., Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3054586

Michael Pressman (Contact Author)

Research Fellow at the Civil Jury Project at NYU School of Law

40 Washington Square South
New York, NY 10012-1099
United States

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