Searching for theory X: A quality-only approach to the problem of future generations.
Committee ChairSmith, Holly M.
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractVarious ways of extending utilitarianism to questions concerning future generations have been proposed: (a) views that are entirely person-affecting--i.e., that hold that an action can only be right or wrong if it affects the utility of particular persons; (b) the view that the total quantity of utility is all that matters; (c) views that hold that the quality of the lives that are lived is all that matters; and (d) views that hold that both the quality of lives lived and the total quantity of utility that is experienced have some independent value. Person-affecting views are problematic because, for example, if following a policy of depletion with respect to natural resources would result in the existence of different individuals by the time the negative effects of such a policy would come about than would exist if a policy of conservation were followed, then there would be no moral reason to conserve resources. The view that only the total quantity of happiness matters is problematic because, among other things, it leads to what Parfit calls the Repugnant Conclusion--viz. the view that a state of affairs in which every being's life is only just barely worth living is better than a state of affairs in which ten billion extremely happy beings exist so long as there are so many of these barely happy beings that the total utility in that state of affairs is greater. Views that put some independent value on both quantity and quality are problematic because no rationale can be given for holding that quantity has some independent value but is not the only thing that has value. This dissertation suggests that a quality-only approach should be taken. It is argued that there is no value in the creation of happy people but that there is value in the creation of a more happy person as opposed to a (possibly different) less happy person. It is maintained, then, that whereas there is value in bringing happier people into existence instead of less happy people, there is no value in bringing happy people into existence instead of bringing no people into existence. (Abstract shortened by UMI.)