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The Non-Identity Problem

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dc.contributor.advisor Caspar Hare. en_US Urbanek, Valentina Maria en_US
dc.contributor.other Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Dept. of Linguistics and Philosophy. en_US 2011-04-25T15:55:57Z 2011-04-25T15:55:57Z 2010 en_US 2010 en_US
dc.description Thesis (Ph. D.)--Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Dept. of Linguistics and Philosophy, 2010. en_US
dc.description Cataloged from PDF version of thesis. en_US
dc.description Includes bibliographical references (p. 152-155). en_US
dc.description.abstract Some actions are identity affecting, they affect who will exist in the future. Explaining how identity affecting actions can be wrong has been thought to pose a problem, the Non-Identity Problem. The problem is that an identity affecting action could be wrong even though no one would be harmed if it were performed. If no one would be harmed, how can we explain why it is wrong? The Non-Identity Problem assumes that someone is harmed by an action only if someone would be worse-off if it were performed than they would be if it were not. I defend this assumption, and I argue that harm does not figure in any way into a plausible explanation of wrong-doing in examples of the Non-Identity Problem. Furthermore, I argue that the Non-Identity Problem is not an anomaly. There are other examples of actions that are wrong even though harm does not figure into any plausible explanation of why they are wrong. I focus on one: the wrong of increasing inequality between people who are equally deserving. I conclude that harm does not play a role in explaining all wrong actions, nor is harm an especially important consideration that counts against an action. Consistent with these lessons, I suggest that we think about the wrong done in examples that raise the Non-Identity Problem in the following way: we should ask what the action tells us about the agent's character. I argue that the action reveals to us a defect in the agent's character and an action that is the mark of a defective character is wrong. I identify the defect of character revealed by some of the most troubling examples of wrong-doing as insensitivity to suffering. Insensitivity to suffering can be exhibited to the same degree by an agent who harms someone as by an agent who harms no one. en_US
dc.description.statementofresponsibility by Valentina Maria Urbanek. en_US
dc.format.extent 155 p. en_US
dc.language.iso eng en_US
dc.publisher Massachusetts Institute of Technology en_US
dc.rights M.I.T. theses are protected by copyright. They may be viewed from this source for any purpose, but reproduction or distribution in any format is prohibited without written permission. See provided URL for inquiries about permission. en_US
dc.rights.uri en_US
dc.subject Linguistics and Philosophy. en_US
dc.title The Non-Identity Problem en_US
dc.type Thesis en_US Ph.D. en_US
dc.contributor.department Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Dept. of Linguistics and Philosophy. en_US
dc.identifier.oclc 710986244 en_US

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