Sobjectivity: Aggregation and Scales of Equivalents and Cost

F. M. Kamm

in Morality, Mortality Volume I: Death and Whom to Save From It

Published in print July 1998 | ISBN: 9780195119114
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780199872244 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Ethics Series

 Sobjectivity: Aggregation and Scales of Equivalents and Cost

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Continues the exploration of ‘Sobjectivity’ addressed in Ch. 8 and 9 as applied to justifying the Principle of Irrelevant Utility with respect to the question of saving different groups of lives, and advances two more combinations of objective and subjective views, here designated ‘Sobjectivism4’ and ‘Sobjectivism5’. Sobjectivism4 is a move in the direction of aggregating significantly lesser losses of life, and distinguishes costs from equivalents; Sobjectivism3 (presented in Ch. 8) in combination with Sobjectivism4 is viewed as most accurately representing commonsense morality (rather than Sobjectivity1 (Ch. 8) or Sobjectivism2 (Ch. 9)). In the fifth type of Sobjectivity, Sobjectivism5, everything of concern to individuals is always allowed to be aggregated on the scale of equivalents, no matter how small — the approach is just straightforwardly utilitarian in aggregating everything. Overall, the chapter contrasts the permissibility of aggregating certain extra utilities as costs that inhibit the saving of lives with the impermissibility of aggregating these extra utilities as equivalents to and so substitutable for lives. The results obtained on irrelevant utilities are applied to the paradox of group beneficence, and the distinction between extra utility that is distributed over many people whose lives are not at stake and extra utility that is concentrated on the person whose life is at stake is considered further; in conclusion, a brief comparison is made between Sobjectivity and contractualist moral reasoning.

Keywords: aggregating extra utilities; aggregating lesser losses of life; commonsense morality; contractualist moral reasoning; costs; equivalents; group beneficence; irrelevant utilities; lives at stake; lives not at stake; objectivity; Principle of Irrelevant Utility; saving lives; Sobjectivity; subjectivity; substitution of equivalents; utilitarian aggregation

Chapter.  10363 words. 

Subjects: Moral Philosophy

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