Workshop - Population Ethics: Theory and Practice
Oxford, 29-30 November 2014
Many believe that the world is currently overpopulated. This view has been common in the public sphere since at least the publication of Ehrlich's 1968 book The Population Bomb. But it raises deep and difficult philosophical issues: which population size is optimal depends not only on the empirical facts concerning the impact of population size on quality of life, but also on the right way to trade off the intrinsic value (if any) of adding new people to the population against the impact on existing people. This theoretical question - the question of population axiology - is, however, notoriously controversial. On the practical side, meanwhile: many discussions in practical ethics and public policy, from healthcare prioritisation to climate change, are crucially affected by underlying population-axiological assumptions, but the assumptions are usually unexamined, and there do not exist well-developed tools for varying them to take account of the range of theoretically plausible options. Our workshop will bring together those working in the relevant abstract theory with those 'on the ground' dealing with the various affected areas of real-world decision making, to generate cross-party dialogue and build bridges from theory to practice.
Hilary Greaves, University of Oxford