"On Parfit's Repugnant Conclusion"

Joy Li (Rutgers University) 
First published online 8 Jan. 2014

There are many factors that determine goodness of a world, but given the limited resources available, perhaps the most telling indicators are population size and quality of life. In his famous book Reasons and Persons, Derek Parfit presented a puzzle in order to illustrate that seemingly reasonable assumptions about tradeoffs between quality and quantity lead to what he calls the “Repugnant Conclusion.” According to the Repugnant Conclusion, a world in which there are a large number of people leading lives barely worth living is better than a world in which there are fewer people leading excellent lives. Many philosophers have tried to solve this puzzle, but without clear success. In this paper, I will explain Parfit’s Continuum Argument for the Repugnant Conclusion along with a new answer to the problem posed by the Repugnant Conclusion as found in his unpublished manuscript. I end by raising some objections to his solution.

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