Utilitarianism and infinite utility

Australasian Journal of Philosophy 71 (2):212 – 217 (1993)
Peter Vallentyne
University of Missouri, Columbia
Traditional act utilitarianism judges an action permissible just in case it produces as much aggregate utility as any alternative. It is often supposed that utilitarianism faces a serious problem if the future is infinitely long. For in that case, actions may produce an infinite amount of utility. And if that is so for most actions, then utilitarianism, it appears, loses most of its power to discriminate among actions. For, if most actions produce an infinite amount of utility, then few actions produce non-maximal utility, and so most actions are permissible.1 I will argue that potentially infinite futures create no major problems for utilitarianism. Utilitarianism has, I argue, the resources to distinguish among actions all of which produce infinite amounts of utility -- judging some permissible and some impermissible. For brevity of expression I will focus on act utilitarianism, but all the points apply equally well to many other traditional forms of utilitarianism
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1080/00048409312345222
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

Our Archive

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 35,954
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

No references found.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Should Utilitarians Be Cautious Aboutan Infinite Future?Luc Van Liedekerke - 1995 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 73 (3):405 – 407.
Rationality with Respect to People, Places, and Times.Larry S. Temkin - 2015 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy 45 (5-6):576-608.
Infinite Utility: Insisting on Strong Monotonicity.Luc Lauwers - 1997 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 75 (2):222 – 233.

View all 6 citations / Add more citations

Similar books and articles

IV. The Production of Children as a Problem of Utilitarian Ethics.Hermann Vetter - 1969 - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 12 (1-4):445-447.
Axiological Actualism.Josh Parsons - 2002 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 80 (2):137 – 147.
Infinite Utility: Anonymity and Person-Centredness.Peter Vallentyne - 1995 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 73 (3):413 – 420.
Utilitarian Eschatology.Mark T. Nelson - 1991 - American Philosophical Quarterly 28 (4):339-47.


Added to PP index

Total downloads
70 ( #93,453 of 2,293,883 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
8 ( #62,959 of 2,293,883 )

How can I increase my downloads?

Monthly downloads

My notes

Sign in to use this feature