Difference between revisions of "Infinities in ethics"

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Infinities pose some difficult problems in ethics. For example, if we're in a [[Big world|big world]], there are already infinite numbers of good and bad things. Adding or removing finitely many of them leaves infinitely many of both. This means aggregative consequentialist theories (those that maximize the sum of the values of individual structures) will be indifferent between any acts with merely finite effects.
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'''Infinities in ethics''' pose some difficult problems. For example, if we're in a [[Big world|big world]], there are already infinite numbers of good and bad things. Adding or removing finitely many of them leaves infinitely many of both. This means aggregative consequentialist theories (those that maximize the sum of the values of individual structures) will be indifferent between any acts with merely finite effects.
  
 
[[Nick Bostrom]] wrote a [http://www.nickbostrom.com/ethics/infinite.pdf paper] discussing various possible solutions to this problem of "infinitarian paralysis" (as well as the "fanaticism" problem of theories that would sacrifice anything for a small chance of an infinite payoff).
 
[[Nick Bostrom]] wrote a [http://www.nickbostrom.com/ethics/infinite.pdf paper] discussing various possible solutions to this problem of "infinitarian paralysis" (as well as the "fanaticism" problem of theories that would sacrifice anything for a small chance of an infinite payoff).

Revision as of 14:02, 28 June 2012

Infinities in ethics pose some difficult problems. For example, if we're in a big world, there are already infinite numbers of good and bad things. Adding or removing finitely many of them leaves infinitely many of both. This means aggregative consequentialist theories (those that maximize the sum of the values of individual structures) will be indifferent between any acts with merely finite effects.

Nick Bostrom wrote a paper discussing various possible solutions to this problem of "infinitarian paralysis" (as well as the "fanaticism" problem of theories that would sacrifice anything for a small chance of an infinite payoff).

For example, one could look at the density of value, use hyperreal numbers, use discounting in time and space, or ignore very small probabilities. These solutions all have their own problems.

The best-known use of infinity in ethics is probably Pascal's wager, which has a finite variant in Pascal's mugging.

Blog posts

External links

See also