Distributive Justice and Welfarism in Utilitarianism

Inquiry 51 (2):123-146 (2008)
Abstract
In this paper I argue for the following conclusions: 1. The widely shared beliefs that in utilitarianism and consequentialism (a) the good has priority over the right and (b) the right is derived from the good, are both false. 2. The most plausible components of utilitarianism that are used to present it as an intuitively compelling moral theory - welfarism, consequentialism and maximization - do not in fact support utilitarianism because they do not establish that the best state of affairs is the one with the highest sum total of the non-moral good. These components cannot determine which state of affairs is the best and therefore leave it entirely open whether one should opt for distribution-insensitive utilitarianism or a distribution-sensitive welfarist consequentialism. Since this is left open, it is not the case that distribution-insensitive utilitarianism is the default option and every deviation from it towards a more just distribution needs to be defended against utilitarianism. Rather, in light of our moral intuitions and the persistence of the objection from justice against utilitarianism, it seems to be the other way round, that distribution-sensitivity is the default option and any deviation from it bears the burden of proof.
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References found in this work BETA
Fred Feldman (1995). Adjusting Utility for Justice. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 55 (3):567 - 585.

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