Sequential Dominance and the Anti-Aggregation Principle

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According to the widely held anti-aggregation principle, it is wrong to save a larger number of people from minor harms rather than a smaller number from much more serious harms. This principle is a central part of many influential and anti-utilitarian ethical theories. According to the sequential-dominance principle, one does something wrong if one knowingly performs a sequence of acts whose outcome would be worse for everyone than the outcome of an alternative sequence of acts. The intuitive appeal of the sequential-dominance principle should be obvious; everyone is knowingly made worse off if it is violated. In this paper, I present a number of cases where one is forced to violate either the anti-aggregation principle or the sequential-dominance principle. I show that these principles conflict regardless of whether one accepts a counterfactual or a temporal, worsening view of harm. Moreover, I show that this result holds regardless of how much worse a harm has to be in order to count as a much more serious harm.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1593-1601
Number of pages9
JournalPhilosophical Studies
Issue number6
Early online date11 Sept 2014
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2015

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