SOPhiA 2019

Salzburgiense Concilium Omnibus Philosophis Analyticis

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Programme - Talk

Distinguishing Personal and Impersonal Components of Welfare Aggregation
(Ethics, English)

There is widespread agreement in moral philosophy that welfare is morally relevant. Its significance, however, is highly controversial. One of the main controversies is often cashed out in the distinction between personal and impersonal views. It is particularly present in debates on the number problem or interpersonal aggregation (Taurek 1977), in critiques of consequentialism (Rawls 1971, Scheffler 1982), and in population ethics (Parfit 1984). Roughly, personal views hold that morality is concerned with particular people and how they fare. Impersonal views, by contrast, focus on promoting welfare in the world. However, the views so construed are neither disjunctive nor exhaustive.

I argue that different notions of personal and impersonal views about welfare ethics haven't been distinguished accurately. There is not only one distinction but several important ones that are merged within the personal-impersonal contrast. In order to show so, I classify and analyse three (out of seven) categories the personal-impersonal distinction can be applied to. First, the basic final value of welfare can be understood as impersonal (or good simpliciter) or as personal (or good-for). Second, a view either always allows for aggregation of the value of welfare (impersonal) or it doesn't (personal). Third, a view is either welfare compensatory if it implies that the losses of some people can always be outweighed by the higher overall gains of other people (impersonal) or it isn't (personal). The classification reveals that, since the categories are logically independent, more fine-grained intermediate positions are possible. Exemplary, I argue that an aggregative and welfare compensatory view is compatible with personal basic final value as long as it still feeds its compensatory aggregative function with personal value only. Hence, we do not need to be full-blown impersonalists for welfare aggregation.

Chair: Amit Pinsker
Time: 10:00-10:30, 19 September 2019 (Thursday)
Location: SR 1.004

Jonas Harney 
(Saarland University, Germany)

Jonas Harney is graduate assistant (Wissenschaftlicher Mitarbeiter) since April 2018 and PhD student since May 2018 (supervised by Prof. Christoph Fehige), both at Saarland University since April 2018. He studied philosophy, political sciences, and sociology at Technical University Dresden (B.A. in 2012) and at Humboldt-University Berlin (M.A. in 2018).

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