ברכות חמות לד"ר ערן פיש על סיום עבודת הדוקטורט
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ד"ר פיש כתב תחת הנחייתו של דני אטאס את עבודת הדוקטורט, שכותרתהConsequentialism and the Value of Individuals
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According to a central and well-established principle of consequentialism, moral philosophy should concern itself with the good, and not with whose good it is. The consequentialist indifference to individual identities is considered to be an expression of impartiality: it is because the good of every person counts as much as anybody else’s that we should focus on the good itself. This principle explains why consequentialists find no difficulty in aggregating and trading off losses and gains across persons. It also serves as the ultimate line of defense against consequentialism’s many critics. Those accusing consequentialism of failing to respect the separateness of persons, or the notions of fairness and of personal rights, need to confront it. They have to explain why it matters, for example, that harms and benefits accrue to different persons rather than to the same individual; or why it is so important that the rights of one particular individual be protected against the interests of other people, who are just like him.
Each of the four essays collected in this work stands on its own, but they all challenge different aspects of that same fundamental principle of consequentialism. They aim to demonstrate that this principle is neither as unassailable as some believe it to be, nor as morally compelling. What appears to be a commitment to equal concern, I argue, might be more appropriately described as indifference.
The first essay concerns the principle known as ‘anonymous Pareto’. On this principle, an alternative A is better than another, B, in case it is Pareto superior to either B or a permutation of it. This is an attractive idea that purports to apply Pareto-based judgments to a broader range of cases while preserving some of the intuitive appeal of the standard, more familiar principle. It has a particular appeal for consequentialists, as it offers to establish consequentialist moral conclusions without resorting to aggregation or interpersonal trade-offs. This essay considers some ways in which anonymous Pareto is sometimes defended and argues against each separately, as well as in more general lines. It suggests that the reasons in light of which people find standard Pareto so compelling are the reasons for doubting the anonymous variation of that principle.
The subject of the second essay is the debate over statistical lives – the anonymous lives of faceless victims who are expected to be lost once a risk materializes. According to a widespread view, since our moral concern should be with saving lives as such, regardless of whose life is concerned, no distinction should be made between statistical lives, and the lives of particular individuals facing concrete life-threatening situations. I argue that the distinction between identified and statistical lives is a non-trivial one. When weighing the competing interests of an identified and a statistical ‘person’, what we are in fact faced with is not a conflict between the comparable interests of two individuals, one named and the other anonymous. It is rather a decision between an individual interest on the one hand, and on the other the collective interest of a group of persons. Whatever claim statistical victims have on our resources is a claim that belongs to the group under risk, and cannot be associated with any one of its members in particular.
The third essay touches upon a long-standing dispute in the literature on social choice theory, namely the Diamond-Harsanyi debate. It has been argued that a consequentialist social welfare function is blind to the value of equal chances. Judging by the outcomes, a policy that gives everyone a fair chance might be indistinguishable from a policy that does not. The established response is that outcomes could be re-described so as to incorporate facts about fairness. This paper argues that consequentialism’s incompatibility with the value of chance equality runs deeper than some philosophers and economists are inclined to admit. Consequentialism is committed to the twin views that, first, producing the most good is to be preferred, and secondly, that it does not matter whose good is concerned. The idea that people should receive an equal chance, however, is concerned primarily with determining whose good is to be promoted, rather than with how much of that good there should be.
Finally, the fourth and last essay addresses the subject of this collection more directly. In this essay I consider two major arguments that go along way back in the history of utilitarianism. Utilitarians believe that we should be concerned with losses and gains of well-being, but not with whose losses and gains they are, because, first, this notion is thought to follow from the principle of equal consideration; and secondly, because personal good is an independent source for agent-neutral reasons, regardless of whoever’s good it is. I argue, first, that the fact that one person’s good is as important as another’s does not entail the claim that it does not matter which of them gains or loses. Secondly, I offer some reasons to think that the value of well-being is not independent but derivative from the value of individuals