[SydPhil] University of Sydney Philosophy Seminar Series: Brian Hedden

Ryan Cox ryan.cox at sydney.edu.au
Mon Oct 16 09:00:00 AEDT 2023

Hi everyone,

This week’s speaker in the University of Sydney Philosophy Seminar Series is Brian Hedden (ANU).

The title of Brian’s talk is “Parity and Pareto”. Here’s the abstract for the talk:

Pareto principles are at the core of ethics and decision theory. The Strong Pareto principle says that if one thing is better than another  for someone and at least as good for everyone else, then the one is overall better than the other. But a host of famous figures express it differently, with "not worse" in place of "at least as good." In the presence of parity (or incommensurability), this results in a strictly stronger Pareto principle, which I call Super-Strong Pareto. Super-Strong Pareto, however, yields cyclic betterness and is therefore false. I point out a number of influential arguments - concerning population ethics, collective action problems, and decision-making in the face of parity and uncertainty - that crucially rely on Super-Strong Pareto and are therefore unsound. I then turn to the most influential argument against the possibility of parity - Broome's collapsing argument - and argue that it likewise relies on Super-Strong Pareto reasoning and is therefore question-begging. Finally, I turn to the much-neglected question of how to justify Strong Pareto. The answer I arrive at, which emphasizes tie-breaking, yields a striking insight, namely that Super-Strong Pareto amounts to the denial of insensitivity to mild sweetening. That is what makes it problematic in the presence of parity.

The talk will take place on Wednesday the 18th of October at 3:30 p.m. in the Philosophy Seminar Room (N494) in the Quadrangle.

The talk will be followed by drinks and informal discussion at a nearby venue. All welcome!

Enquiries about the seminar series can be directed to ryan.cox at sydney.edu.au<mailto:ryan.cox at sydney.edu.au>

Ryan Cox
Associate Lecturer in Philosophy
Discipline of Philosophy
School of Humanities
University of Sydney
ryan.cox at sydney.edu.au<mailto:ryan.cox at sydney.edu.au>

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