Actual utility, the objection from impracticality, and the move to expected utility

Philosophical Studies 129 (1):49 - 79 (2006)
Utilitarians are attracted to the idea that an act is morally right iff it leads to the best outcome. But critics have pointed out that in many cases we cannot determine which of our alternatives in fact would lead to the best outcome. So we can't use the classic principle to determine what we should do. It's not "practical"; it's not "action-guiding". Some take this to be a serious objection to utilitarianism, since they think a moral theory ought to be practical and action-guiding. In response, some utilitarians propose to modify utilitarianism by replacing talk of actual utility with talk of expected utility. Others propose to leave the original utilitarian principle in place, but to combine it with a decision procedure involving expected utility. What all these philosophers have in common is this: they move toward expected utility in order to defend utilitarianism against the impracticality objection. My aim in this paper is to cast doubt on this way of replying to the objection. My central claim is that if utilitarians are worried about the impracticality objection, they should not turn to expected utility utilitarianism. That theory does not provide the basis for a cogent reply to the objection
Keywords Philosophy   Philosophy   Epistemology   Logic   Philosophy of Mind   Philosophy of Religion
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References found in this work BETA
Richard B. Brandt (1959). Ethical Theory. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.,Prentice-Hall.
Bart Gruzalski (1981). Foreseeable Consequence Utilitarianism. Australasian Journal of Philosophy 59 (2):163 – 176.

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Citations of this work BETA
Uri D. Leibowitz (2009). Moral Advice and Moral Theory. Philosophical Studies 146 (3):349 - 359.
Todd Calder (2013). Is Evil Just Very Wrong? Philosophical Studies 163 (1):177-196.
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