I am looking for the name of the paradox below. I don't know if it is really a fallacy, its just what I'm calling it. I would like to read read more about what people think, but I don't know what it is called!

The majority of conscious beings do not choose to commit suicide. We can infer that they would rather be alive. Why then is it not the duty of all conscious beings to create as many other conscious beings (both biological offspring and AI if it is possible at some point, leading to an ethical trap) that can be kept in a happy state. Otherwise we would be depriving potential lives. Society should reorient towards this.

Thanks for any help!

  • 1
    Why do you think this is a "paradox"? What's paradoxical (i.e. seemingly incompatible and contrary among the claims)
    – virmaior
    Commented Apr 28, 2017 at 2:52
  • Welcome to philosophy.SE. You've got a lot of presumptions going on there, e.g. happiness, the logistics of suicide and how first and third person intentionality relate. I'm also not sure I see the paradox.
    – MmmHmm
    Commented Apr 28, 2017 at 22:58

2 Answers 2


What you describe is a typical runaway issue with a utilitarian ethics system. There's a few flaws:

  • There's the assumption that we should be considering the happiness of future conscious entities, which gets difficult because we cannot be 100% certain what the future will bring.
  • There's the assumption that, because living appears to bring happiness, that maximizing the number of living things is the natural result. Adding more conscious things might decrease other sources of happiness.
  • There's the assumption that the statement "The majority of conscious beings do not choose to commit suicide" is not only true now, but will remain true in future circumstances. The addition of more conscious entities into the same space could potentially cause that balance to shift.

This is related to The Repugnant Conclusion as formulated by Derek Parfit:

“For any possible population of at least ten billion people, all with a very high quality of life, there must be some much larger imaginable population whose existence, if other things are equal, would be better even though its members have lives that are barely worth living” (Parfit, D. 1984, Reasons and Persons, Oxford: Clarendon Press.)

this is closely tied to the idea that you can increase utility by increasing population size, while putting a sharper point on it since, it seems, that one can get overall higher net utility even while allowing each individual's utility to decline. (Cort's answer includes some of the arguments counter to this conclusion).

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