The most controversial claim in *Stubborn Attachments*

Except that the claim generates virtually no controversy.  I argue that moral comparisons are possible only within the “cone” of an episode of (potentially) sustainable economic growth.  So you can compare a growth-maximizing policy to a non-growth-maximizing policy, and judge the former to be superior, at least subject to human rights constraints.  It is within that realm that (some) aggregation problems can be solved.

You cannot, within my framework, ask how many chicken lives are equal to a cow life, or for that matter to a human life.

You cannot resolve the Repugnant Conclusion, or many issues of scale.  Here is some further relevant discussion.

You cannot ask if the presence of highly populated alien civilizations would raise or lower the import of existential risk for humans.  (For external reasons I think it lowers the import of existential risk.)

You cannot readily answer any question about the potential moral import of living in a simulation.

I am not saying those questions must be discarded, only that they are much harder to answer.  And perhaps we won’t make much progress on them at all.  At some point “simple pragmatism” will have to step in.  “Are we living in a simulation?  eh!  What’s for breakfast!?”

This is one way in which my framework differs from that held by many Effective Altruists.


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