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Review article2024Peer reviewedOpen access

Review article: the ethics of population policies

Andersson, Henrik; Brandstedt, Eric; Torpman, Olle


This is a review of contemporary philosophical discussions of population policies. The focus is on normative justification, and the main question is whether population policies can be ethically justified. Although few analytical philosophers have directly addressed this question - it has been discussed more in other academic fields - many arguments and considerations can be placed in the analytical philosophical discourse. This article offers a comprehensive review and analysis of ethically relevant aspects of population policies evaluated on the basis of the main ethical theories. This analysis is preceded by a brief historical contextualisation of when and how population policies became ethically contentious and how this relates to philosophical debates in environmental ethics, population ethics and political philosophy. The article also includes a conceptual analysis of population policies in which the empirical intricacies around individual fertility decisions are sorted out and the different ways in which they can be affected are categorised in a taxonomy which highlight the most relevant ethical aspects of population policies. The ethical analysis shows that while population policies can be justified on the basis of most ethical theories, it all depends on what prior assumptions are made about what is at stake.


Population policies; population ethics; coercive; eugenics; population control; ethics; climate change

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Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy
2024, Volume: 27, number: 4, pages: 635-658

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