Conclusions to utilitarianism

References and Further Reading 1. We may define metaethics as the study of the origin and meaning of ethical concepts. When compared to normative ethics and applied ethics, the field of metaethics is the least precisely defined area of moral philosophy.

Conclusions to utilitarianism

Arriving at the Repugnant Conclusion Parfit is not the first philosopher to have noticed that influential moral views may have implications of the sort outlined in the Repugnant Conclusion. However, it is Parfit who has brought the conclusion to recent philosophical attention both by stressing the importance of the conclusion and by showing how difficult it is to avoid it Parfit Parfit was led to the Repugnant Conclusion by his considerations concerning how we ought to act in cases where our decisions have an impact on who will exist in the future.

Consider the following two scenarios see Parfit chapter A pregnant mother suffers from an illness which, unless she undergoes a simple treatment, will cause her child to suffer a permanent handicap.

If she receives the treatment and is cured her child will be perfectly normal. A woman suffers from an illness which means that, if she gets pregnant now, her child will suffer from a permanent handicap. If she postpones her pregnancy a few months until she has recovered, her child will be perfectly normal.

What ought the women to do in the two cases? In case 1 the obvious answer is that the mother ought to undergo the treatment since her actual child will thereby get a better life.

However, it is problematic to appeal to this kind of reason when we turn to case 2. If the woman postpones her pregnancy, then the child that is brought into existence will not be identical to the child she would have had, had she decided to become pregnant while she was ill it will not be the same ovum and sperm that meet.

How, if at all, should a change in the identity of the involved parties in the compared outcomes affect our moral evaluation? A straightforward way of capturing the No-Difference View is total utilitarianism according to which the best outcome is the one in which there would be the greatest quantity of whatever makes life worth living Parfit p.


However, this view implies that any loss in the quality of lives in a population can be compensated for by a sufficient gain in the quantity of a population; that is, it leads to the Repugnant Conclusion. Consider the following diagram: Figure 1 The blocks above represent two populations, A and Z.

The width of each block shows the number of people in the corresponding population, the height shows their quality of life or lifetime welfare.

Just another philosophy blog

All the lives in the above diagram have lives worth living. Consequently, although the people in A lead very good lives and the people in Z have lives only barely worth living, Z is nevertheless better than A according to total utilitarianism. Thus, the attempt to provide a plausible solution to the Non-Identity Problem has led to a seemingly unacceptable conclusion.

Leaving the Non-Identity Problem aside, there are other arguments establishing that the Repugnant Conclusion is not easily avoided. Parfit has developed an argument to this effect.

Conclusions to utilitarianism

Consider the three population scenarios indicated in Fig. Figure 2 In population A, everybody enjoys a very high quality of life. The idea is that an addition of lives worth living cannot make a population worse. Thus, the final conclusion is that Z is better than A, which is the Repugnant Conclusion.

By what apparently constitute sound steps of reasoning we have arrived at an absurd conclusion. Well, if it is thought to be suspicious, there is a way of avoiding it by starting with a population like the one in A and adding new people living at a slightly lower level than the people in A in a manner that increases the well-being of existing people.

Conclusions to utilitarianism

Moreover, there are other abstract arguments leading in the same direction, some of them presented by Parfit himself see section 2.Modern opposition to natural law and natural rights. During the nineteenth century the advocates of limitless state power made a comeback with new rhetoric, (the utilitarians) or the same old rhetoric dressed in new clothes), and in the twentieth century they were politically successful, but militarily unsuccessful.


Sorry! Something went wrong!

Utilitarianism, by John Stuart Mill, is an essay written to provide support for the value of utilitarianism as a moral theory, and to respond to misconceptions about it. Mill defines utilitarianism as a theory based on the principle that "actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness, wrong as they tend to produce the reverse of happiness.".

by John Stuart Mill () Chapter 2 What Utilitarianism Is. A PASSING remark is all that needs be given to the ignorant blunder of supposing that those who stand up for utility as the test of right and wrong, use the term in that restricted and merely colloquial sense in which utility is opposed to pleasure.

Moreover, average utilitarianism has implications very similar to the Repugnant Conclusion (see Sikora ; Anglin ). Variable value principles An attempt to produce a compromise between a total principle and an average principle is provided by a variable value principle.

Box and Cox () developed the transformation. Estimation of any Box-Cox parameters is by maximum likelihood. Box and Cox () offered an example in which the data had the form of survival times but the underlying biological structure was of hazard rates, and the transformation identified this.

Template:Under Construction Parfit's repugnant conclusion, shown in Figure 2, is a famous challenge to total utilitarianism.

Mill's Moral and Political Philosophy (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)

Here, B is better than A. C is better than B. Z is best of all. In Z, an "an enormous population all of whom have lives not much above the level where they would cease to.

SparkNotes: Utilitarianism: Summary