The Ethics of Creating People
Konstantin Weber and Christian Seidel
Studienstiftung des deutschen Volkes
Most traditional normative theorising has been concerned with so-called same people choices, i.e. situations in which the number and identities of the people possibly affected by our choices are constant. However, in many cases, ranging from ordinary procreative decisions to public policy decisions like those regarding climate policy, we can, in making our choice, also affect the identities or number of people. Traditional normative theories seem ill-equipped to take these different people choices into account since properly evaluating them appears to require more conceptual and normative resources than traditional theories have on offer. In order to arrive at a truly comprehensive normative theory, then, we must adapt our traditional approaches. This project aims at making progress in this endeavour by tackling one of the most recalcitrant problems raised by different people choices: The question of the normative significance of the well-being of additional people.
Intuitively, we hold (1) that the fact that a possible person would have a happy life is no reason to bring this person into existence, and (2) that the fact that one possible person would have a better life than another is a reason to bring the first, rather than the second, into existence. However, (1) and (2) are in tension. (1) accords well with so called person-affecting approaches according to which we only have reasons not to harm or wrong specific persons. While such approaches can explain (1) (since, if we fail to create a person, no one is, ceteris paribus, wronged or harmed), they fail to accommodate (2) (since the same holds if we create the worse off person). Impersonal approaches, on the other hand which assign impersonal value to well-being can explain (2), but, it seems, only at the cost of giving up (1). This project aims at developing a theory that can explain both (1) and (2) without incurring inacceptable theoretical or normative costs.