The mere addition paradox, parity and critical-level utilitarianism

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper uses a formal analysis of the relation of ‘parity’ to make sense of a well-known solution to Parfit’s ‘mere addition paradox’. This solution is sometimes dismissed as a recourse to ‘incomparability’. In this analysis, however, the solution is consistent with comparability, as well as transitivity of ‘better than’. The analysis is related to Blackorby, Bossert and Donaldson’s ‘incomplete critical-level generalised utilitarianism’ (ICLGU). ICLGU is inspired by Parfit’s work and can be related to the analysis of parity, though the distinctive ‘mark’ of parity suggests that the boundaries of a set of critical levels is not exact. One has to allow for vagueness to make an account based on parity plausible. These accounts are then contrasted with Broome’s view which also involves vagueness.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)413-431
Number of pages18
JournalSocial Choice and Welfare
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2005

Cite this