A Virtue of Precaution Regarding the Moral Status of Animals with Uncertain Sentience

We address the moral importance of fish, invertebrates such as crustaceans, snails and insects, and other animals about which there is qualified scientific uncertainty about their sentience. We argue that, on a sentientist basis, one can at least say that how such animals fare make ethically significant claims on our character. It is a requirement of a morally decent (or virtuous) person that she at least pays attention to and is cautious regarding the possibly morally relevant aspects of such animals.

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Value Lexicality

An example of value lexicality is that an outcome with both torture and happiness is bad, regardless of the amount of happiness. Value lexicality is important partly because it can lead to suffering-focused ethics. Key topics that this essay explains include strong versus weak lexicality, value aggregation, views on large numbers and sequence arguments.

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What Is the Difference Between Weak Negative and Non-Negative Ethical Views?

Weak negative views in ethics, such as negative-leaning utilitarianism, are said to give more weight to reducing suffering than to promoting happiness. In contrast, non-negative views such as traditional utilitarianism are said to give equal weight to happiness and suffering. However, this way of distinguishing between the views rests on controversial assumptions about the measurability of happiness and suffering.

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Measuring Happiness and Suffering

Is the balance of happiness versus suffering in the future net positive or net negative (in expectation)? Is the aggregate happiness and suffering in a group of individuals positive or negative? For such questions to have factual answers that are free from value judgements, happiness and suffering would need to be objectively measurable to a very high degree. However, such a degree of measurability is widely (although not universally) rejected.

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How Could an Empty World Be Better than a Populated One?

Leslie (1998) writes that when “discussing whether the universe was created by a benevolent deity, philosophers regularly point out that our world might be considered an ethical disaster, something of negative value, because of all the misery it contains.” This essay surveys different ways in which ethical views may come to conclude that a world’s value is overall negative.

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The ‘Asymmetry’ and Extinction Thought Experiments

Someone who wants to do good is faced with the question how to prioritize preventing badness vs. bringing about more individuals with good lives. A relevant idea is the ‘Asymmetry,’ which roughly says that it is bad to bring into existence individuals with bad lives but not good to add individuals with good lives. One […]

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