Moral Offsetting


With Tyler John (co-author and co-presenter). Many people try to offset the harm their behaviors do to the world. People offset carbon, river and air pollution, risky clinical trials, and consuming animal products. Yet it is not clear whether and when such offsetting is permissible. We give a preliminary conceptual analysis of moral offsetting. We then show that every comprehensive moral theory faces a trilemma: (i) any bad action can in principle be permissibly offset; (ii) no actions can in principle be permissibly offset; or (iii) there is a bad act that can be permissibly offset such that another act worse by an arbitrarily small degree cannot be offset, no matter how great the offset.

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