The Impotence of the Causal Impotence Objection Journal Article uri icon



  • Many significant harms, such as the mass suffering of animals on factory farms, can only be prevented, or at least lessened, by the collective action of thousands, or in some cases millions, of individual agents. In the face of this, it can seem as if individuals are powerless to make a difference, and thus that they lack reasons, at least from the consequentialist perspective, to refrain from eating meat. This has become known as the “causal impotence” problem. The standard response is to appeal to expected utility calculations. Recently, this response has been attacked, mostly on the grounds that the relevant causal mechanisms are more complex than its proponents are said to assume. In this paper, I argue that the attacks are unsuccessful, both at undermining specific expected utility calculations urged by me and Kagan, or even at showing that significantly different expected utility calculations wouldn’t justify the relevant behavior.

publication date

  • January 1, 2020

has restriction

  • closed

Date in CU Experts

  • March 19, 2021 11:46 AM

Full Author List

  • Norcross A

author count

  • 1

Other Profiles

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0897-2346

Additional Document Info

start page

  • 161

end page

  • 168


  • 36


  • 1