The Practical, the Political and the Ethical seminar series

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


Temporal Approaches to Defining the Valence of a Life

Campbell Brown (LSE)


A life may be either good, bad, or neutral. This is the "valence" of the life. Valence is an important consideration in many problems of Population Ethics. For example, whether or not it is permissible to create a new person plausibly depends, at least in part, on whether this person would have a good life, or a "life worth living." In this talk, I evaluate some approaches to defining valence. I focus in particular on what may be called "temporal" approaches. A life has a temporal structure: it persists and changes over time. And its value, too, may change over time: it may get better or worse. Temporal approaches exploit this structure in order to define valence. I argue that such definitions face serious problems, which may be avoided only by restricting the "domain" of the definition. This restriction has the effect of excluding certain substantive theories of well-being. However, as I argue, this may be a tolerable consequence.


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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