Several people have helped us to write this essay. Our greatest debt is to Wlodek Rabinowicz, who has been an excellent supervisor of the project. He spent a lot of time and energy reading drafts of the essay. Without his painstaking criticism and helpful comments this essay would lack in precision, relevance, and logical correctness. Earlier drafts of the essay were discussed in Sven Danielsson and Wlodek Rabinowicz's seminar at the Department of Philosophy, University of Uppsala. The participants of the (...) seminar contributed with helpful criticisms. Apart from Sven and Wlodek, we would like to thank Thomas Anderberg, Erik Carlson, Tomasz Pol, Peter Ryman, Rysiek Sliwinski, and Jan Österberg. We are especially grateful to Erik Carlson. His critical eye detected many flaws in earlier versions of our theory. (shrink)
Introduction -- The nature and assessment of moral theories -- What is utilitarianism? -- Well-being -- Utilitarian aggregation -- A user-friendly guide to action? -- Is utilitarianism too demanding? -- Is utilitarianism too permissive? -- The way outcomes are brought about -- The place of rules in utilitarianism.
Michael Smith has recently argued that non-cognitivists are unable to accommodate crucial structural features of moral belief, and in particular that non-cognitivists have trouble accounting for subjects' certitude with respect to their moral beliefs. James Lenman and Michael Ridge have independently constructed 'ecumenical' versions of non-cognitivism, intended to block this objection. We argue that these responses do not work. If ecumenical non-cognitivism, a hybrid view which incorporates both non-cognitivist and cognitivist elements, fails to meet Smith's challenge, it is unlikely that (...) 'purer' and more familiar versions of non-cognitivism will succeed. (shrink)
This paper argues that we can benefit or harm people by creating them, but only in the sense that we can create things that are good or bad for them. What we cannot do is to confer comparative benefits and harms to people by creating them or failing to create them. You are not better off (or worse off) created than you would have been had you not been created, for nothing has value for you if you do not exist, (...) not even neutral value. (shrink)
What is the prudentially right thing to do in situations in which our actions will shape our preferences? Suppose, for instance, that you are considering getting married, and that you know that if you get married, you will prefer being unmarried, and that if you stay unmarried, you will prefer being married. This is the problem I will deal with in this article. I will begin by explaining why preferences matter to prudence. I will then go on to discuss a (...) couple of unsuccessful theories and see what we can learn from their mistakes. One of the most important lessons is that how you would have felt about a life had you never led it is irrelevant to the question of what you prudentially ought to do. My theory takes this into account. What counts is how you feel about a life when you are actually leading it. (Published Online August 21 2006). (shrink)
The simple idea behind act-consequentialism isthat we ought to choose the action whoseoutcome is better than that of any alternativeaction. In a recent issue of this journal, ErikCarlson has argued that given a reasonableinterpretation of alternative actions thissimple idea cannot be upheld but that the newtheory he proposes nevertheless preserves theact-consequentialist spirit. My aim in thispaper is to show that Carlson is wrong on bothcounts. His theory, contrary to his ownintentions, is not an act-consequentialisttheory. By building on a theory formulated (...) byHolly Smith, I will show that the simple ideacan be upheld. The new theory I will proposehas all the merits of Carlson's theory withoutsharing its demerits. (shrink)