Ethical Perspectives

September 2016

On the Moral Importance of Numbers, Relevance and the Workings of Non-Aggregative Reasoning

  • Gabriele Badano


How can we explain why a morally motivated stranger should cure a large number of persons from permanent paralysis instead of saving one from death, but should save one from death instead of curing a multitude from being bedridden for a day? An interesting family of responses to this question employs both a non-aggregative and an aggregative approach to the distribution of scarce benefits, arbitrating between them. Focusing on Alex Voorhoeve’s uniquely well-developed version of this response, I demonstrate that his argument lacks the necessary resources to prove its point in that it rests on a specific interpretation of the non-aggregative approach without even acknowledging the existence of a conflict with an established alternative and, therefore, without justifying the interpretation of non-aggregative reasoning its conclusions depend upon. This problem has important implications for the appeal of non-aggregative approaches to the distribution of benefits, while the highlighted conflict of possible interpretations should be of interest to anyone who aims to understand how non-aggregative reasoning works.

 Page : 527 - 543

To  Ethical Perspectives 3/2016