Ph.D. Final Public Oral Examination

Fri, Jul 2, 2021, 2:00 pm to 3:00 pm
via Zoom

Zoom link


This dissertation develops and defends a nonconsequentialist account of interpersonal trade-offs. The account finds application in situations in which different individuals have interests in being aided that cannot be jointly satisfied.

Chapter One articulates a theoretical foundation for reasoning about interpersonal trade-offs. The framework I defend is an individualist one: In adjudicating between the competing interests of different individuals, our decision should be justifiable to each of those affected. I show that individualist moral theories, most notably Scanlonian contractualism, can be sensitive to the significance of numbers without resorting to the familiar consequentialist idea of maximizing aggregate well-being.  In short, nonconsequentialists can make the numbers count without directly counting the numbers.

Chapter Two further develops one key result arrived at by the end of Chapter One, namely, individualist moral reasoning, suitably understood, supports a general approach to interpersonal trade-offs commonly known as Limited Aggregation. I propose a novel development of Limited Aggregation, which I call the Partial Primacy Account (PPA). I show that PPA is not only theoretically well-motivated, it is also capable of convincingly handling the purported counterexamples to Limited Aggregation that have been advanced in the recent literature.

Finally, in Chapter Three, I examine an issue that arises in the context of adjudicating between competing individual interests under conditions of risk and uncertainty. Here, I wade into the ongoing debate between the ex ante and the ex post approaches to risk, and I offer a qualified defense of the ex post framework. My defense is qualified in that it allows for the relevance of ex ante reasoning in a range of trade-off situations. My discussion can be thus understood as advocating for a hybrid account of risk.