Taking Justice Too Seriously

Utilitas 7 (2):207-216 (1995)
000000001. Introduction One of the standard objections to traditional act utilitarianism is that it is insensitive to issues of justice and desert. Traditional act utilitarianism holds, for example, that it is morally obligatory to torture or kill an innocent person, when doing so increases the happiness of others more than it decreases the happiness of the innocent person. Utilitarianism is, of course, sensitive to what people believe about justice (for example, people might riot, if they believe a gross injustice has been done), but it is not sensitive to justice itself. In response to this problem, Fred Feldman has recently developed a version of consequentialism designed to deal more adequately with issues of justice.1 He does this by developing a theory of the good that is sensitive both to individual welfare and to what people deserve. On his theory, the goodness of states of affairs is determined by the total amount of desertadjusted welfare. I agree with Feldman that the permissibility of actions, and the moral desirability of worlds, depends both on people's welfare and on issues of justice. Feldman's work in this area is important, because it explores terrain that has been largely ignored by consequentialists.1 I shall argue, however, that his theory is implausible because it doesn't take welfare promotion seriously enough. In his article in this issue2, Feldman argues that his theory has the resources to block the..
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DOI 10.1017/S0953820800002041
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Matthew Rendall (2013). Priority and Desert. Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 16 (5):939-951.

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