A Good Exit: What to Do about the End of Our Species?

In: Journal of Moral Philosophy
Author: Toby Handfield1
View More View Less
  • 1

Purchase instant access (PDF download and unlimited online access):


We know that Homo sapiens will not exist forever. Given this, how should our species end? What are the reasons, if any, to delay our extinction? In this paper, I show that the pre-eminent reasons which favor prolonging the existence of the species are partial: they will arise from the particular attachments and projects of the final few generations. While there may also be impartial reasons to prolong the species, these reasons are liable, with time, to reverse their valence: we can be reasonably confident that they will ultimately recommend hastening the demise of the species. Consequently, it is likely that our descendants will eventually face a difficult – possibly tragic – conflict, between partial duties that recommend living on, and an impartial duty to extinguish the species.

  • Arrhenius G. (1999). An impossibility theorem in population axiology with weak ordering assumptions. In Sliwinski R. , editor, Philosophical Crumbs. Department of Philosophy, Uppsala University, Uppsala.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Arrhenius G. (2000). An impossibility theorem for welfarist axiologies. Economics and Philosophy, 16(02):247266.

  • Arrhenius G. (2009). One more axiological impossibility theorem. In Johansson L.-G. , Österberg J. , and Sliwinski R. , editors, Logic, Ethics, and All That Jazz. Department of Philosophy, Uppsala University, Uppsala.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Benatar D. (2006). Better Never to Have Been: The harm of coming into existence. Oxford University Press, New York.

  • Bradley B. (2009). Well Being and Death. Clarendon Press, Oxford.

  • Broome J. (2004). Weighing Lives. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

  • Carlson E. (1998). Mere addition and two trilemmas of population ethics. Economics and Philosophy, 14(02):283306.

  • Cohen G.A. (2011). Rescuing conservatism. In Wallace R.J. , Kumar R. , and Freeman S. , editors, Reasons and Recognition. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Cowen T. (1996). What do we learn from the repugnant conclusion? Ethics, 106:75475.

  • Fehige C. (1998). A Pareto principle for possible people. In Fehige C. and Wessels U. , editors, Preferences, pages 50843. de Gruyter, Berlin.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Gardiner S.M. (2006). A Perfect Moral Storm: Climate change, intergenerational ethics and the problem of moral corruption. Environmental Values, 15:397413.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Greaves H. and Ord T. (2015). Population ethics and normative uncertainty. Paper presented at Ethics and Decision Theory Workshop, ANU.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Handfield T. (2011). Absent desires. Utilitas, 23:40227.

  • Huemer M. (2008). In defence of repugnance. Mind, 117:899933.

  • Hurka T. (1983). Value and population size. Ethics, 93:496507.

  • Johnston M. (2014). Is life a Ponzi scheme? Boston Review.

  • Kauppinen A. (2014). Flourishing and finitude. Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy.

  • Kelly T. (2004). Sunk costs, rationality, and acting for the sake of the past. Nous, 38(1):6085.

  • Lenman J. (2002). On becoming extinct. Pacific Philosophical Quarterly, 83(3):253269.

  • Levy N. (2001). Why regret language death? Public Affairs Quarterly, 15(4):37384.

  • Ng Y.-K. (1989). What should we do about future generations? Economics and Philosophy, 5:23553.

  • Norton B.G. (1987). Why preserve natural variety? Princeton University Press, Princeton.

  • Oppy G. (2001). Physical eschatology. Philo, 4(2):14868.

  • Otsuka M. (1994). Killing the innocent in self-defense. Philosophy and Public Affairs, 23:7494.

  • Parfit D. (1984). Reasons and Persons. Clarendon Press, Oxford.

  • Roberts M.A. (1998). Child Versus Childmaker: Future Persons and Present Duties in Ethics and the Law .Rowman & Littlefield.

  • Ross J. (2006). Rejecting ethical deflationism. Ethics, 116(4):742768.

  • Scheffler S. (2012). Death and the Afterlife. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

  • Smith I.A. (2010). The Role of Humility and Intrinsic Goods in Preserving Endangered Species. Environmental Ethics, 32(2):165182.

  • Velleman J.D. (1991). Well-being and time. Pacific Philosophical Quarterly, 72:4877. Reprinted in Velleman 2000: 56–84.

  • Velleman J.D. (2000). The Possibility of Practical Reason. Clarendon Press, Oxford.

Content Metrics

All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 341 77 2
Full Text Views 189 7 1
PDF Views & Downloads 48 11 1