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Seminars in Moral Philosophy Week 1 MT12

Event Name Seminars in Moral Philosophy Week 1 MT12
Start Date 8th Oct 2012 4:30pm
End Date 8th Oct 2012 6:30pm
Duration 2 hours

Speaker: Christian Piller (York)

Title: Valuing Human Life

Venue: Lecture Room, Radcliffe Humanities, Woodstock Road, OX2 6GG

Abstract: This paper started out as a critique of Benatar’s infamous view that for all beings, who experience some pain in their lives, it would have been better not to exist, i.e. for each person P it would have been better for P if P had not existed. This view is false and the way Benatar presents his view is, in my view, morally objectionable. In clearing the ground for this critique of Benatar, I engage with wider issues in the debate about the value of life. I will argue for the following claims: (a) Comparisons between P’s existence and P’s non-existence in terms of what is better-for-P are meaningful, as long as P exists. (b) Moral actualism turns a triviality – possible people are not real people – into a falsehood – only real people count. (c) Comparativism is the view that we can explain qualitative concepts like being good and like being good for me in terms of comparative concepts. Comparativism, I will argue, is plausible. Related to (c) is the claim (d) that there is no absolute zero-point of goodness (or goodness for me), which is also plausible. Whereas I am critical of Broome’s view in (a), I endorse the general direction of his argument for (d). (e) Although we can be harmed or benefitted by our own death, we cannot be harmed or benefitted by our coming into existence. (f) I explain why we have a duty to avoid bringing miserable lives into existence and why we have no duty to create happy lives. If time allows, I will show what is wrong with Benatar’s argument. In the course of the paper I engage with the works of Broome, Bykvist, Chisholm, Harman, Jeffrey, Narveson, Parfit, Parsons, Rabinowicz, and von Wright.

Webpage: Seminars in Moral Philosophy

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