Critical-Level Utilitarianism and the Population-Ethics Dilemma
Discussion Paper No.: 97-06
34 Pages Posted: 3 Apr 1998
Date Written: February 1997
Principles for the social evaluation of states of affairs with different population sizes, such as Classical Utilitarianism, often lead to the repugnant conclusion. Those that avoid it may have other ethically unattractive features. Average Utilitarianism does not lead to the repugnant conclusion but, in some cases, considers the addition of individuals whose lives are below neutrality to a utility-unaffected population to be good. Principles in the Critical-Level Utilitarian (CLU) family with critical levels of utility above neutrality avoid the repugnant conclusion, and their performance is compared with other principles in this paper. In addition, the performance of the Critical-Level Generalized Utilitarian (CLGU) family, a set of principles which generalizes CLU to allow for inequality aversion in well-being, is investigated. We argue that the CLU and CLGU families provide the most satisfactory principles for the moral evaluation of states of affairs with different populations or population sizes.
JEL Classification: D63
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation