The Practical, the Political and the Ethical seminar series

The Practical, the Political and the Ethical seminar series
5 March 2019, 5.30pm - 7.15pm
Room 102 (the Seminar Room) in 19 Gordon Square (UCL)

The Case for Longtermism

Hilary Greaves (Oxford)



Longtermism is, very roughly for now, the thesis that most of the value of our actions lies in the far future, so that considerations of the very long run are the primary determinant of which action is optimific, in a wide class of decision situations. If some such claim is true, it has potentially widespread practical significance. In both small-scale and large-scale decision making contexts in both the private and public spheres, the standard practice is to assume (or otherwise believe) that attempting to influence the course of the very long-run future would be intractable, so that we should instead focus on more immediate consequences. In this talk, I will attempt to articulate a plausible longtermist claim, set out as clearly as possible the case for thinking that the claim is true, and examine the extent to which the claim can be defended against various empirical, axiological and decision-theoretic assumptions.

The Institute of Philosophy hosts a regular workshop series entitled ‘The Practical, the Political, and the Ethical’. The series was created in 2015 by Véronique Munoz-Dardé (UCL) and Hallvard Lillehammer (Birkbeck) in order to discuss work in progress from visiting speakers. This year the series is convened by Robert Simpson (UCL) and Joe Horton (UCL). The seminar generally meets on alternate Tuesdays from 5.30 to 7.15pm in the spring and summer terms. Talks are normally 50 minutes (no pre-circulation of the paper), followed by discussion. All are welcome.  


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