Vague Value


  • For helpful comments and discussions, I would like to thank Elizabeth Barnes, David Braddon-Mitchell, Ross Cameron, Tyler Doggett, Caspar Hare, Nadeem Hussein, Tristram McPherson, Ricardo Mena, Daniel Nolan, Alejandro Perez-Carballo, David Plunkett, Agustin Rayo, Miriam Schoenfield, Ted Sider, Nicholas J. J. Smith, Eric Swanson, Ryan Wasserman, Steve Yablo, members of the 2012 American Association of Mexican Philosophers Conference and an anonymous reviewer for Philosophy and Phenomenological Research.


You are morally permitted to save your friend at the expense of a few strangers, but not at the expense of very many. However, there seems no number of strangers that marks a precise upper bound here. Consequently, there are borderline cases of groups at the expense of which you are permitted to save your friend. This essay discusses the question of what explains ethical vagueness like this, arguing that there are interesting metaethical consequences of various explanations.