What the Utilitarian Cannot Think

Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 18 (4):717-729 (2015)

Authors
Mark T. Nelson
Westmont College
Abstract
I argue that utilitarianism cannot accommodate a basic sort of moral judgment that many people want to make. I raise a real-life example of shockingly bad behavior and ask what can the utilitarian say about it. I concede that the utilitarian can say that this behavior caused pain to the victim; that pain is bad; that the agent’s behavior was impermissible; even that the agent’s treatment of the victim was vicious. However, there is still one thing the utilitarian cannot say, namely that the agent wronged the victim, that they violated her. According to utilitarianism, moral offenses are offenses against global utility, right reason or the totality of sentient beings, but never against individual victims, yet this aspect of the action – that it is an offense against a particular person –is highlighted when we say that this action wronged that woman
Keywords Utilitarianism  Wrongness  Violation  Adams  Quinn  Wolterstorff
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DOI 10.1007/s10677-015-9599-z
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References found in this work BETA

Utilitarianism: For and Against.J. J. C. Smart & Bernard Williams - 1973 - Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Modern Moral Philosophy.G. E. M. Anscombe - 1958 - Philosophy 33 (124):1 - 19.

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