At the next Perspectives on Science seminar on Monday 22.2., Antti Kauppinen (University of Helsinki) will give a presentation titled “How Not to Make Trade-Offs Between Health and Other Goods”. The seminar is organised as a joint seminar with the Moral & Political Philosophy Research Seminar series. The seminar takes place in Zoom from 2 to 4 pm.
Perspectives on Science is a weekly research seminar which brings together experts from science studies and philosophy of science. It is organized by TINT, the Centre for Philosophy of Social Science at the University of Helsinki. More information about the seminar here.
To join the seminar, please sign up here.
In the context of a global pandemic, there is good health-based reason for governments to impose various social distancing measures. However, in addition to health benefits, such measures also cause economic and other harms. In this paper, I look at proposals to make use of existing QALY (quality-adjusted life year) valuations and WELLBYs (wellbeing-adjusted life-years) as the currency for making trade-offs between health and other goods. I argue that both methods are problematic. First, whether the costs and benefits are translated into money or well-being, the result is that morally irrelevant utilities are weighed against morally relevant ones. Second, neither of these approaches can capture the fundamental moral asymmetry between doing and allowing harm, since they construe trade-offs in terms of outcomes while ignoring information about the role of various agents in the causal chains that bring them about. I conclude that deliberation about trade-offs should remain a messy and communal process that can’t be replaced with well-intentioned calculation.
Antti Kauppinen is a Professor of Practical Philosophy at the University of Helsinki and PI of the Academy of Finland Research Project Responsible Beliefs: Why Ethics and Epistemology Need Each Other (2019-2023). He works mostly on ethics and metaethics, on topics like normativity, meaning in life, well-being, and moral sentiments. He also like to teach political philosophy. More information about him can be found here.