Kotarbinski's Early Criticism of Utilitarianism

Utilitas 12 (01):79- (2000)
Apart from a short introduction, this contribution consists of a translation of Tadeusz Kotarbinski’s “Utilitarianism and The Ethics of Pity” (1914). In that very concise and relatively unknown early note, written before he embarked on his long and influential career as a nominalist logician and philosopher of science, Kotarbinski had formulated four astonishingly ‘modern’ objections to utilitarianism. Unlike Christian ‘ethics of pity’, utilitarian ethics (i) disregards the normative importance of the distinction between preventing suffering and promoting happiness, (ii) leaves no room for supererogation, (iii) leaves no room for agent-relativity in morality insofar as it disallows ‘inefficient’ self-sacrifice, and (iv) rejects the possibility of genuine ethical dilemmas. To what extent was Kotarbinski a pioneer in his critique? This question is posed but not answered.
Keywords utilitarianism  Christian ethics  supererogation  utilitarianism  moral dilemmas
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DOI 10.1017/S0953820800002624
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