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Infinity in ethics

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-L138-2
Version: v2,  Published online: 2019
Retrieved May 18, 2024, from

Article Summary

Puzzles can arise in value theory and deontic (permissibility) theory when infinity is involved. These puzzles can arise for ethics, for prudence, or for any normative perspective. For the sake of simplicity, we focus on the ethical versions of these problems. We start by addressing problems that can arise in determining what is permissible, either in a given choice situation when there are an infinite number of options or in infinite sequence of choice situations, each with only finitely many options. There is a common theme here: standard and plausible decision rules, such as the dominance principle or maximising principles, run into conflict with other plausible principles. We then address problems that can arise in determining whether one option is more valuable than another, when the options have infinite, or undefined, value. This includes cases where a single bearer of value has infinite or undefined value, as well as cases where each bearer of value is finite but the total for the collection is infinite or undefined totals. Our focus is on introducing the puzzles, rather than canvassing potential solutions.

Citing this article:
Vallentyne, Peter and Daniel Rubio. Infinity in ethics, 2019, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-L138-2. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
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