Forthcoming, Philosophical Studies
Abstract: How might we extend aggregative moral theories to compare infinite worlds? In particular, how might we extend them to compare worlds with infinite spatial volume, infinite temporal duration, and infinitely many morally valuable phenomena? When doing so, we face various impossibility results from the existing literature. For instance, the view we adopt can endorse the claim that (1) worlds are made better if we increase the value in every region of space and time, or (2) that they are made better if we increase the value obtained by every person. But they cannot endorse both claims, so we must choose. In this paper I show that, if we choose the latter, our view will face serious problems such as generating incomparability in many realistic cases. Opting instead to endorse the first claim, I articulate and defend a spatiotemporal, expansionist view of infinite aggregation. Spatiotemporal views such as this do face some difficulties, but I show that these can be overcome. With modification, they can provide plausible comparisons in the cases that we care about most.
Featured in the Global Priorities Institute Working Paper Series (2020); under review
Abstract: Consider a decision between: 1) a certainty of a moderately good outcome, such as one additional life saved; 2) a lottery which probably gives a worse outcome, but has a tiny probability of some vastly better outcome (perhaps trillions of blissful lives created). Which is morally better? By expected value theory (with a plausible axiology), no matter how tiny that probability of the better outcome, (2) will be better than (1) as long that better outcome is good enough. But this seems fanatical. So we may be tempted to abandon expected value theory.
But not so fast - denying all such verdicts brings serious problems. For one, we must reject either: that moral betterness is transitive; or even a weak tradeoffs principle. For two, we must accept that judgements are either: ultra-sensitive to small probability differences; or inconsistent over structurally-identical pairs of lotteries. And, for three, we must sometimes accept judgements which we know we would reject if we learned more. Better to accept fanaticism than these implications.
Abstract: Our universe is both chaotic and (most likely) infinite in space and time. But it is within this setting that we must make moral decisions. This presents problems. The first: due to our universe's chaotic nature, our actions often have long-lasting, unpredictable effects; and this means we typically cannot say which of two actions will turn out best in the long run. The second problem: due to the universe's infinite dimensions, and infinite population therein, we cannot compare outcomes by simply adding up their total moral values - those totals will typically be infinite or undefined. Each of these problems poses a threat to aggregative moral theories. But, for each, we have solutions: a proposal from Greaves let us overcome the problem of chaos, and proposals from the infinite aggregation literature let us overcome the problem of infinite value. But a further problem emerges. If our universe is both chaotic and infinite, those solutions no longer work - outcomes that are infinite and differ by chaotic effects are incomparable, even by those proposals. In this paper, I show that we can overcome this further problem. But, to do so, we must accept some peculiar implications about how aggregation works.
Market harms and market benefits
Self-prediction, demandingness, and effective altruism
Discounting the present