The numbers fallacy: rescuing sufficientarianism from arithmeticism

Lasse Nielsen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


This paper argues in defence of sufficientarianism that there is a general flaw in the most common critiques against it. The paper lays out sufficientarianism and presents the problems of indifference, of outweighing priority, and of discontinuity. Behind these problems is a more general objection to the abruptness of the sufficiency threshold relying upon an assumption regarding arithmeticism about value. The paper argues that sufficientarians need not accept arithmeticism about value and that the commonly held critiques of sufficientarianism are in fact instances of the numbers fallacy pertaining to the construction of numerical counterexamples that gain intuitive traction from ‘empty numbers’ – numbers without meaningful content in reference to the view under investigation. The paper concludes that we should remain sceptical about such use of numerical counterexamples, and while this does not by itself prove sufficientarianism correct, it is an important and novel contribution to its justification.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 7. Mar 2023


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