This paper explores the problem of how it can be rational and morally required to do things like vote and eat a vegetarian diet where it is very unlikely that one’s action will produce any benefit, and exceedingly likely that it will involve some (at least mild) cost (wasted time, displeasure, or discomfort). The author discusses three responses to this puzzle, Alvin Goldman’s, Carolina Sartorio’s, and Derek Parfit’s, and concludes that it can be rational and moral to do these things if there is even a small chance that one’s action will make a difference. If this is true it may be necessary to rethink what it means for something to be “gratuitous,” and in particular how gratuitous evils are thought about in the context of the argument from evil against theism.
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