The Repugnant, the Sadistic, and Two ‘Despotic’ Conclusions in Population Ethics



repugnant conclusion, sadistic conclusion, despotism of the best-off and worst off conclusions, principle M


In addressing certain questions in population ethics, Derek Parfit’s ‘Repugnant Conclusion’ presents a well-known difficulty for classical utilitarianism. ‘Critical-level utilitarian’ axiologies have been proposed as a means of avoiding the Repugnant Conclusion. An objection to critical-level utilitarianism (CLU) that has been raised in the literature is the so-called ‘Sadistic Conclusion’ which it (CLU) may imply. In this paper it is contended that the Sadistic Conclusion may not be as serious a threat to CLU as it appears, and that the very terms in which the problem is posed carry within themselves the means of its resolution through compromise of a certain ‘natural’ sort. The paper also deals with two other unpleasant conclusions which could be implied by critical-level utilitarianism and critical-level generalised utilitarianism respectively. These are referred to as ‘Despotism Conclusions’, involving the according of undue power to the best-off and worst-off members of a society in determining the outcome of welfare comparisons across different populations.


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How to Cite

Subramanian, S. (2024). The Repugnant, the Sadistic, and Two ‘Despotic’ Conclusions in Population Ethics. Ética, economía Y Bienes Comunes, 20(2), 65–84. Retrieved from



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