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Criticisms of Utilitarianism.doc

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Joseph Boyle

Criticisms of Utilitarianism 1. It is inconsistent with common moral intuitions about fairness and distributive justice, about the extent of personal responsibility and about the legitimacy of an agent’s personal projects and commitments • Williams’ official concern is with 1) the doctrine of negative responsibility and 2) the implications of utilitarianism for a person’s own integrity in carrying out projects and commitments • utilitarianism destroys the integrity of life • you have to sacrifice own interests and commitments • negative responsibility is the idea that one s as responsible for what one refues to do as for what one does 354 mid paragraph • this follows from the consequentialist concern for states of affairs • what counts ethically is what happens not who does it or why they do it • this contrasts with the virtue ethic focus on choosing well and on Kant’s idea that the good will is the point of ethics 2. Oversimplifies Moral Thought and distorts moral thought and practice • Taylor’s objection to utilitarianism and formalism is an objection to this oversimplification of moral life • Ross: provides an appeal to common moral experience to back up his view that moral obligation does not have a single source but a plurality of irreducible sources • he thinks that the reasons we have about what we would do—you don’t need to be a utilitarian to say that • duty of benevolence (utilitarianism) is one of a set of duties • when we make promises we do so with no thought to its total consequences • the basis of moral life is human relationships, ethical intuitionism • criticizes the utilitarian, consequentialist and Kantian • morality doesn’t arise to describe the good • we just have relationships that are structured deontologically (with several duties) • pluralistic moral theory • prima facie duties, features of actions that make them morally good or bad, but do not always indicate that a given action is morally correct to do or to avoid • when an action is governed by several prima facie duties, we must guess about
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