Date of Graduation

5-2016

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Degree Level

Undergraduate

Department

Philosophy

Advisor

Lee, Richard

Reader

Herold, Warren

Second Reader

Moon, Zola

Third Reader

Harriss, Edmund

Abstract

Collective action problems are a unique family of puzzles in ethics about what people do together. These puzzles pervade our modern and globalized world. In collective harms, individual actions lead to a serious moral wrong; yet, the individual actions themselves do not seem to be moral wrongs. In collective benefits, individuals fail to bring about serious moral good; yet, individual actions do not seem to be morally wrong. In this paper, I will explore three different ways of grounding reasons why we ought not participate in the production of collective harms (or, refrain from producing a collective benefit). I argue that consequentialism fails to ground these reasons because it has problems in moral mathematics. I argue that deontological theories also fail to ground these reasons, because of problems with group agency. Finally, I conclude that contract theories provide the best way to make sense of these problems, and ground reasons why we ought not (or ought) to participate in the creation of collective harms (or benefits).

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