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Non-additive approaches to aggregation

Hart, J. (2023) Non-additive approaches to aggregation. PhD thesis, University of Reading

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To link to this item DOI: 10.48683/1926.00112295


Sometimes we ought to aggregate lesser harms to many such that they outweigh greater harms to a few, and sometimes we ought not to. This seems self-evident, but it has proven surprisingly difficult to construct a coherent moral theory out of this basic observation. In particular, it is difficult to explain (in a principled way) when we ought to aggregate. Relevance views attempt to solve this problem by arguing that sufficiently lesser harms are irrelevant to greater harms and thus should not be taken into consideration. My thesis develops and defends a new relevance view. The first half of the thesis focuses on when lesser harms can aggregate and outweigh stronger harms. I start by solving a ‘fatal’ dilemma for all relevance views. I show that one horn of the dilemma is fatal but avoidable, whilst the other is unavoidable but not fatal, and that the dilemma rests on a faulty assumption of weak-additivity. I then develop a new relevance view based around the principle that we ought to balance harms by similarity (i.e., we ought to balance greater harms against similarly great harms and lesser harms against other lesser harms) before deciding whether lesser harms are relevant to greater harms. The second half focuses on when lesser harms can aggregate and tiebreak between stronger harms. First, I show that relevance views cannot capture our intuition that sufficiently lesser harms should not tiebreak between greater harms, without forfeiting our intuitions in other important cases. Secondly, I demonstrate that relevance views are sometimes inappropriately insensitive to the number of harms in tiebreaking cases. To solve these problems, I distinguish between two types of relevance, and I introduce Broomean fairness into my account. Doing so allows my view to capture all our intuitions about when lesser harms can tiebreak between stronger harms.

Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Thesis Supervisor:Hooker, B.
Thesis/Report Department:Department of Philosophy
Identification Number/DOI:
Divisions:Arts, Humanities and Social Science > School of Humanities > Philosophy
ID Code:112295


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