Tag Archives: appeal of utilitarianism

Samuel Scheffler

I believe that utilitarianism refuses to fade from the scene in large part because, as the most familiar consequentialist theory, it is the major recognized normative theory incorporating the deeply plausible-sounding feature that one may always do what would lead to the best available outcome overall.

Samuel Scheffler, The Rejection of Consequentialism: A Philosophical Investigation of the Considerations Underlying Rival Moral Conceptions, rev. ed., Oxford, 1994, p. 4

Julian Savulescu

The critical question for utilitarians is not ‘Is this natural or is this appropriate for humans?’ but rather ‘Will this make people’s lives go better?’ […] Objectors to utilitarianism often refer scathingly to the ‘utilitarian calculus’. However utilitarians are in one sense humane: they care ultimate about people’s well-being and not about feelings, or intuitions or attachment to symbols. Utilitarianism is a theory that shows concern for people through concern for their well-being.

Julian Savulescu, ‘Bioethics: Utilitarianism’, in Encyclopedia of Life Sciences, 2006, p. 7

Robert Goodin

There is a sense of ‘utilitarianism’, associated with architects and cabinet-makers, which equates it to the ‘functional’ and makes it the enemy of the excellent and the beautiful. Yet therein lies one of the great advantages of utilitarianism as a theory of the good: by running everything through people’s preferences and interests more generally, it is non-committal as between various more specific theories of the good that people might embrace, and it is equally open to all of them.

Robert Goodin, ‘Utility and the Good’, in Peter Singer (ed.), A Companion to Ethics, Oxford, 1991, p. 242

J. J. C. Smart

[I]f it is rational for me to choose the pain of a visit to the dentist in order to prevent the pain of a toothache, why is it not rational of me to choose a pain of Jones, similar to that of my visit to the dentist, if that is the only way in which I can prevent a pain, equal to that of my toothache, for Robinson?

J. J. C. Smart, ‘An Outline of a System of Utilitarian Ethics’, in J. J. C. Smart and Bernard Williams, Utilitarianism For and Against, Cambridge, 1973, p. 26

Bertrand Russell

It appeared to me obvious that the happiness of mankind should be the aim of all action, and I discovered to my surprise that there were those who thought otherwise. Belief in happiness, I found, was called Utilitarianism, and was merely one among a number of ethical theories. I adhered to it after this discovery, and was rash enough to tell my grandmother that I was a utilitarian. She covered me with ridicule, and ever after submitted ethical conundrums to me, telling me to solve them on utilitarian principles. I perceived that she had no good grounds for rejecting utilitarianism, and that her opposition to it was not intellectually respectable.

Bertrand Russell, The Autobiography of Bertrand Russell: 1872-1914, London, 1967, pp. 44-45