- Finally, what does this mean for philosophy and practical ethics? The non-identity problem1 shouldn’t inﬂuence our choice of strategies for addressing Congenital Zika Syndrome. That is because of the complex and indeterminable mix of eﬀects of our actions. That might be the case too for some other political decisions that we make, but it doesn’t mean that the non-identity problem isn’t important.
- As we contemplate some of the greatest ethical challenges that lie ahead in the 21st century – climate change, population policy, genetic engineering – the non-identity problem will continue to rear its head. What matters2 most ethically? How should we weigh harms and beneﬁts to current and future people? What are our ethical obligations to people who might or might not exist? Those fundamental and formidable questions remain.
- What is your view on the non-identity problem? Take the quiz3: Aeon: Wilkinson - Which lives matter most?.
- This is Derek Parfit’s view that it makes no difference which set of people are impacted by our actions – we just tot up the consequences and act for the best.
- It is contrasted with the “person affecting” view, or a hybrid supported by John Rawls.
- I took the quiz, and it claimed that my views were “person affecting” – which was a surprise to me – though it said I’d shift to “non-identity” if the benefits were sufficient.
- Maybe this was something to do with time-discounting – not mentioned in the paper. That the impact on those closest to us – both temporally and spatially – ought to weigh somewhat more for us, though not to the exclusion of future generations.
Text Colour Conventions (see disclaimer)
- Blue: Text by me; © Theo Todman, 2019
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