New project on sustainability and future people

A research project on Future People and the Concept of Sustainability has been awarded approx. SEK 3 million from the Swedish Research Council Formas. I am the named project leader and I will work alongside my colleague Lars Samuelsson here in Umeå. Lars has expertise in environmental ethics and I have some familiarity with population axiology. The main idea is to combine these things to investigate the concept of sustainability with particular focus on its reference to future people. We will consider the non-identity problem, various impersonal welfarist population axiologies, as well as the value of the continuation of humanity, all in relation to sustainability. The project will probably start towards the end of 2017 and run into 2020.

Article on fairness problem for incentive schemes (and prohibitions)

In this new article, I discuss and try to explain and develop an argument made by Richard Arneson in relation to coercive paternalism. The background is that some people, for whatever reasons, are better than others at making choices regarding their own interests. Since making good choices tends to benefit you, and since being better off makes you a better chooser, the ability to choose well tends to be rather stable over choice situations. All this means that any policy in which a given population must respond to some measure by making a wise choice will tend to aggravate existing inequalities within the group. Incentive schemes, in their traditional/archetypical role as focused on reducing costs, have this property, as does prohibitions that are not completely effective (i.e. people can still choose to disobey and so risk punishment). In contrast, physical changes to the choice environment, as well as some forms of nudging, bypass rational agency and so do not have this property.

TEDx talk on what’s important

Today my TEDx talk on the importance of asking what is important and how philosophy might help was published online. The talk was given in Umeå on May 11.

New Article on Asymmetric Population Axiology

In February 2010 I attended a workshop in Uppsala on climate issues, with John Broome the guest of honor. I presented a new population axiology that I claimed would underpin what Broome calls the neutrality intuition – that we tend to be neutral regarding the addition of new lives to the population; once people are born, their lives should be good, but whether or not they are born in the first place is not a concern. Broome was quite skeptical of my proposal but not, I thought, entirely dismissive. This minimal encouragement and my own stubbornness led me to spend a lot of time on this pet project over the next six years. Countless modifications later, core parts of my theory are published today in Philosophical Studies.

Workshop on Perfectionism in Public Health

It has been almost two years since Dominik Düber invited me to co-organize the workshop starting today at the Center for Advanced Study in Bioethics in Münster, Germany. We decided on the essentials during a long walk in the Teutoburg Forest after a workshop in Bielefeld, but then spent quite a lot of emails and talks on getting the full program together. Very glad to have a line-up that includes some of the very best political philosophers I know as well as some of the very best philosophers in public health ethics. Discussion should be intense and rewarding. Here is a flyer with program.

Presentation on the survival of humanity

My first Poster presentation! Today at a conference on Theoretical Population Ethics at the Philosophy Department of Oxford University. I try to jolt the intuition that it has intrinsic value that humanity survives, independently of the future lives that may be lived given survival. I then discuss how this value may be accommodated in population axiology.

Article on Banning Cigarettes

In an article published today in the Journal of Medical Ethics, my co-author Kristin Voigt and I argue that given that a ban on cigarettes would be effective, it would also be justified and preferable to the status quo, all things considered. We propose that other philosophical arguments for a similar ban, mainly by Bob Goodin and Sarah Conly, have down-played the counter-arguments in terms of freedom and autonomy. Still, we argue, the benefits in terms of well-being and equality outweigh these costs.

Article in Swedish on Population Axiology

In the most recent issue of the Swedish philosophy journal Filosofisk Tidskrift, I explore what population axiology has to say about the disvalue of human extinction, and find that current theories on offer don’t have much to say about this, beyond the consequences in terms of particular lives not lived.

Conference organized + presentation on ideal family constellations

Yesterday and today, we are running a conference on the theme “Beyond the Nuclear Family: The Philosophy of Close Personal Relationships” here at Umeå University, we being me and my colleagues Daniela Cutas and Anca Gheaus, collaborators in the research project Close Personal Relationships, Children and the Family. Very happy to see so many interesting speakers and with such diversity of expertise and level of seniority coming together for fruitful discussion. My presentation is titled “Should Parents Love Each Other?” and explores some possible family constellation from the perspective of ensuring important family relationship values.

Special issue with article on respect for choice and preference

With Danny Scoccia, I have edited a special issue of Social Theory and Practice, which builds on papers presented at the March 2014 workshop I organized in Umeå on “Respecting Context-Dependent Preferences”. I contribute an article on what exactly we should respect when it comes to a persons choice and preference, taking into account that these often come apart and that preferences are often uninformed and context-dependent.