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Goodness and Numbers
Conférence par/Conference by Wlodek Rabinowicz (Lund University)
You can save either David or Peter and Mary. Is there a compelling reason to save more people rather than fewer? Taurek (1977) (in)famously denied it. One might attempt to establish that is better if more people survive. This would settle the issue for consequentialists, but even non-consequentialists might find it relevant to the question at hand. The standard worry, however, is that such an axiological claim can only be established by aggregating gains and losses of different persons. As opposed to intrapersonal aggregation, interpersonal aggregation might seem illegitimate. Frances Kamm’s Aggregation Argument is meant to overcome this difficulty. I consider how her argument is dealt with by Iwao Hirose and Weyma Lübbe, and what is wrong with it from Taurek’s own perspective. But then I suggest that this perspective is untenable: while Taurek correctly analyses the concept of ‘better’ in terms of fitting attitudes, he accounts for fittingness in terms of the wrong kind of reasons. Still, even so, the Aggregation Argument fails, but a closely related argument may well be acceptable. That argument takes into consideration that different persons’ lives, unless they dramatically differ, typically are incommensurable in value – on par, rather than equally good.