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date: 15 July 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Economics offers several lessons that moral philosophers can beneficially learn. They are useful for topics in moral philosophy that are inherently quantitative. This chapter gives some examples. Some of these quantitative topics also fall within the subject matter of economics, and economists have made useful, substantive discoveries about them. Ignoring these discoveries hampers the progress of philosophy. This chapter illustrates this sort of failure, using the philosophy of equality as an example. The methods rather than the substance of economics provide other lessons for moral philosophy. Economics routinely employs mathematical analysis, which is also demanded by some quantitative topics in moral philosophy. Often in moral philosophy, questions arise over how quantity and quality can be balanced against each other, when quality can vary continuously. Philosophers have sometimes made mistakes about these questions because they lack the necessary mathematical skills. This chapter describes an example that arises in population ethics and elsewhere. This chapter also condemns one bad practice that philosophers are picking up from economists: the practice of using the word “utility” to refer to well-being.

Keywords: philosophy of equality, population ethics, utility, prioritarianism, separability, mathematical methods, levelling down

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