Utilitarian morality and the personal point of view

Journal of Philosophy 83 (8):417-438 (1986)
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Abstract

Consideration of the objection from the personal point of view reveals the resources of utilitarianism. The utilitarian can offer a partial rebuttal by distinguishing between criteria of rightness and decision procedures and claiming that, because his theory is a criterion of rightness and not a decision procedure, he can justify agents' differential concern for their own welfare and the welfare of those close to them. The flexibility in utilitarianism's theory of value allows further rebuttal of this objection; objective versions of utilitarianism can treat self-determination or autonomy as a dominant good which trumps even large magnitudes of lesser goods such as pleasure. After the resources of utilitarianism are exhausted, though, there remains a worry, generated by the personal point of view, about utilitarianism's impartiality. But this worry is correctly viewed, not as a moral worry about the merits of utilitarianism as a moral theory, but as a worry about morality concerning the rationality or supremacy of impartial moral demands. Whether or not this worry can be answered, the fact that it arises supports rather than undermines a utilitarian account of morality.

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David Brink
University of California, San Diego

Citations of this work

Harming as Causing Harm.Elizabeth Harman - 2009 - In M. A. Roberts & D. T. Wasserman (eds.), Harming Future Persons. Springer Verlag. pp. 137--154.
The Demandingness of Morality: Toward a Reflective Equilibrium.Brian Berkey - 2016 - Philosophical Studies 173 (11):3015-3035.
Polluting the Polls: When Citizens Should Not Vote.Jason Brennan - 2009 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 87 (4):535-549.
Making Moral Decisions.Holly M. Smith - 1988 - Noûs 22 (1):89-108.

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