Paper by Matti Häyry, published on February 17, 2023 in Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics
This article presents a revised version of negative utilitarianism. Previous versions have relied on a hedonistic theory of value and stated that suffering should be minimized. The traditional rebuttal is that the doctrine in this form morally requires us to end all sentient life. To avoid this, a need-based theory of value is introduced. The frustration of the needs not to suffer and not to have one’s autonomy dwarfed should, prima facie, be decreased. When decreasing the need frustration of some would increase the need frustration of others, the case is deferred and a fuller ethical analysis is conducted. The author’s perceptions on murder, extinction, the right to die, antinatalism, veganism, and abortion are used to reach a reflective equilibrium. The new theory is then applied to consumerism, material growth, and power relations. The main finding is that the burden of proof should be on those who promote the status quo.
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Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics 2023