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Disaggregating goods

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The history of the theory of decision is profoundly consequentialist, as perhaps it must be, at least regarding certain decision contexts. The central task, within such a theory, is to weigh the consequences on a scale that can take everything into consideration simultaneously. But this task is monumental, and potentially impossible. Not that the consequences are unknowable – although that too is a problem. I will set that problem to one side for this study. The problem I am focusing on is that consequences, goods of value generally, are very hard to commensurate, whether we are considering a decision from the point of view of ethics or not. I shall argue here that the wisest way with the question of weighing goods is not via a means of aggregating their value, but instead via a judicious means of dis-aggregating them. This goes very much against the tradition in decision analysis. I want to articulate the reasons why this is the most defensible form of consequentialism.

This talk is part of the Departmental Seminars in History and Philosophy of Science series.

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