Volume 12, Issue 11 e12442

Population axiology

Hilary Greaves

Corresponding Author

Hilary Greaves

Faculty of Philosophy, University of Oxford


Hilary Greaves, Suite 1, Littlegate House, 16-17 St Ebbes, Oxford OX1 1PT

Email: [email protected]

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First published: 07 November 2017
Citations: 37


Population axiology is the study of the conditions under which one state of affairs is better than another, when the states of affairs in question may differ over the numbers and the identities of the persons who ever live. Extant theories include totalism, averagism, variable value theories, critical level theories, and “person-affecting” theories. Each of these theories is open to objections that are at least prima facie serious. A series of impossibility theorems shows that this is no coincidence: It can be proved, for various lists of prima facie intuitively compelling desiderata, that no axiology can simultaneously satisfy all the desiderata on the list. One's choice of population axiology appears to be a choice of which intuition one is least unwilling to give up.