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Liberal utilitarianism is usually presented as a current of thought mostly inspired by Jeremy Bentham and other Western European thinkers, and eventually diffused in other parts of the world. This paper adopts a different approach and shows, on the one hand, how the Bentham brothers’ experiences in Russia and serfdom in particular inspired their invention of the Panopticon. The latter was not related to deviance (Foucault's interpretation), but to labor organization and surveillance. On the other hand, the interplay between utilitarianism and colonial India led Bentham, then James and John Stuart Mill, and ultimately Henry Maine to revise utilitarianism, in particular the relationship between law, labor, and political economy. In both the Britain–Russia interplay and Britain–India interplay, the tension between universalism and particularism of philosophical, social and economic categories was at work.
The role of bioethicists amidst crises like the COVID-19 pandemic is not well defined. As professionals in the field, they should respond, but how? The observation of the early days of pandemic confinement in Finland showed that moral philosophers with limited experience in bioethics tended to apply their favorite theories to public decisions with varying results. Medical ethicists were more likely to lend support to the public authorities by soothing or descriptive accounts of the solutions assumed. These are approaches that Tuija Takala has called the firefighting and window dressing models of bioethics. Human rights lawyers drew attention to the flaws of the government’s regulative thinking. Critical bioethicists offered analyses of the arguments presented and the moral and political theories that could be used as the basis of good and acceptable decisions.
A variety of approaches have been developed as a way of ‘doing’ medical ethics. While each model may help illuminate different aspects of ethical cases, each have philosophical or practical limitations that preclude one model’s use in all clinical situations. The methods and approaches are described herein, with a brief description of the emphasis and limitations of each. Each model is illustrated through a basic neurosurgical case, reiterated with model-specific details to illustrate the important concepts for each model.
Governmental reactions to crises like the COVID-19 pandemic can be seen as ethics communication. Governments can contain the disease and thereby mitigate the detrimental public health impact; allow the virus to spread to reach herd immunity; test, track, isolate, and treat; and suppress the disease regionally. An observation of Sweden and Finland showed a difference in feasible ways to communicate the chosen policy to the citizenry. Sweden assumed the herd immunity strategy and backed it up with health utilitarian arguments. This was easy to communicate to the Swedish people, who appreciated the voluntary restrictions approach and trusted their decision makers. Finland chose the contain and mitigate strategy and was towards the end of the observation period apparently hesitating between suppression and the test, track, isolate, and treat approach. Both are difficult to communicate to the general public accurately, truthfully, and acceptably. Apart from health utilitarian argumentation, something like the republican political philosophy or selective truth telling are needed. The application of republicanism to the issue, however, is problematic, and hiding the truth seems to go against the basic tenets of liberal democracy.
The role of bioethicists amidst crises like the COVID-19 pandemic is not well defined. As professionals in the field, they should respond, but how? The observation of the early days of pandemic confinement in Finland showed that moral philosophers with limited experience in bioethics tended to apply their favorite theories to public decisions, with varying results. Medical ethicists were more likely to lend support to the public authorities by soothing or descriptive accounts of the solutions assumed. These are approaches that Tuija Takala has called the firefighting and window dressing models of bioethics. Human rights lawyers drew attention to the flaws of the government’s regulative thinking. Critical bioethicists offered analyses of the arguments presented and the moral and political theories that could be used as the basis of good and acceptable decisions.
Chapter 4 shows that military necessity can affect the legitimacy of a belligerent act where the act is deemed evil and its purpose is considered legitimate. In no other circumstances, however, does an act’s legitimacy depend on whether it is materially necessary. As far as IHL norm-creation is concerned, the lack of material military necessity per se is never a reason for a belligerent act’s illegitimacy. If a warring party encumbers itself with missed opportunities and mounting blunders, it has only itself to blame. Nevertheless, in some circumstances, IHL does delegitimise exclusively self-inflicted evil, and it does mandate action with a view to reducing such evil.
takes up the issue of human ‘self-education’ first raised in the Preface. The Marxist theory of self-education is compared with the approach of utilitarians/consequentialists to human agency that underpins (at least to some extent) much of the recent work in the field of economic psychology. It is argued that these two approaches are not as incompatible as is often assumed. More broadly, the author engages with recent work in the psychology of cooperation, which intersects in important ways with both Marxist and consequentialist approaches.
In the framework of a critical illustration of the contemporary history of economics, this chapter recalls the foundations of utilitarianism and the ethics of consequences and provides a survey of research on income inequalities. Then it provides a critical history of welfare economics. It illustrates Sen’s notion of capabilities. It opposes conservative, revolutionary and reformist views on the evolution of capitalism and, finally, discusses a rather unusual topic, the economists’ ethics.
As part of the roundtable “Economic Sanctions and Their Consequences,” this essay discusses whether economic sanctions are morally acceptable policy tools. It notes that both conventional and targeted sanctions not only often fail to achieve their stated objectives but also bring about significant negative externalities in target countries. Economic dislocation and increases in political instability instigated by sanctions disproportionately affect the well-being of opposition groups and marginalized segments of society, while target elites and their support base remain insulated from the intended costs of foreign pressure. Sanctions might also incentivize target governments to use repressive means to consolidate their rule and weaken the opposition. Given these serious shortcomings, I argue that sanctions are ethically problematic tools of foreign policy. Nonetheless, this does not mean that sanctions should be rejected outright, as there might be cases where sanctions are the only viable option, and they might work effectively under certain circumstances. Rather, the essay suggests that policymakers should apply more caution in considering the use of sanctions given their low probability of success, and should be more concerned with the delicate balance between political gain and civilian pain before levying sanctions, whether comprehensive or targeted.
Sidgwick's seminal text The Methods of Ethics left off with an unresolved problem that Sidgwick referred to as the dualism of practical reason. The problem is that employing Sidgwick's methodology of rational intuitionism appears to show that there are reasons to favour both egoism and utilitarianism. Katarzyna de Lazari-Radek and Peter Singer offer a solution in the form of an evolutionary debunking argument: the appeal of egoism is explainable in terms of evolutionary theory. I argue that like rational prudence, rational benevolence is subject to debunking arguments and so problematic, but also – and more importantly – that debunking arguments are irrelevant in the debate over the dualism of practical reason on the view of reason and rational intuitionism that Lazari-Radek and Singer embrace. Either both egoism and utilitarianism are debunked, or neither are. If I am right, Sidgwick's dualism is left standing.
Warwick Heale has recently defended the notion of individualized and personalized Quality-Adjusted Life Years (QALYs) in connection with health care resource allocation decisions. Ordinarily, QALYs are used to make allocation decisions at the population level. If a health care intervention costs £100,000 and generally yields only two years of survival, the cost per QALY gained will be £50,000, far in excess of the £30,000 limit per QALY judged an acceptable use of resources within the National Health Service in the United Kingdom. However, if we know with medical certainty that a patient will gain four extra years of life from that intervention, the cost per QALY will be £25,000. Heale argues fairness and social utility require such a patient to receive that treatment, even though all others in the cohort of that patient might be denied that treatment (and lose two years of potential life). Likewise, Heale argues that personal commitments of an individual (religious or otherwise), that determine how they value a life-year with some medical intervention, ought to be used to determine the value of a QALY for them. I argue that if Heale’s proposals were put into practice, the result would often be greater injustice. In brief, requirements for the just allocation of health care resources are more complex than pure cost-effectiveness analysis would allow.
One of the main objections against effective altruism (EA) is the so-called institutional critique, according to which the EA movement neglects interventions that affect large-scale institutions. Alexander Dietz has recently put forward an interesting version of this critique, based on a theoretical problem affecting act-utilitarianism, which he deems as potentially conclusive against effective altruism. In this article I argue that his critique is not as promising as it seems. I then go on to propose another version of the institutional critique. In contrast to Dietz's version, it targets not the core principles of effective altruism but rather some important methodological assumptions made in EA research, namely diminishing marginal returns and low-hanging fruits. One key conclusion is that it may be time for critics of effective altruism to shift their attention from the theoretical core principles of effective altruism towards the methodological tools actually employed in practice by the EA movement.
Maximizing Hedonism maintains that the most pleasurable pleasures are the best. Francis Bradley argues that this is either incompatible with Mill’s Qualitative Hedonism, or renders the latter redundant. Some ‘sympathetic’ interpreters respond that Mill was either a Non-Maximizing Hedonist or a Non-Hedonist. However, Bradley’s argument is fallacious, and these ‘sympathetic’ interpretations cannot provide adequate accounts of: Mill’s identification with the Protagorean Socrates; his criticisms of the Gorgian Socrates; or his apparent belief that Callicles is misguided to attempt to show that the pleasures of the intelligent can be more valuable than the pleasures of fools without also being more pleasurable.
Given that a properly formed utilitarian response to healthcare distribution issues should evaluate cost effectiveness against the total utility increase, it follows that any utilitarian cost-effectiveness metric should be sensitive to increases in both individual and social utility afforded by a given intervention. Quality adjusted life year (QALY) based decisionmaking in healthcare cannot track increases in social utility, and as a result, the QALY cannot be considered a strict utilitarian response to issues of healthcare distribution. This article considers arguments against, and a possible defence of, the QALY as a utilitarian concept; in response, the article offers a similar — but properly formed — utilitarian metric called the (IALY). This article also advances a tool called the ‘glee factor’ (GF) on which the IALY may lean in a similar way to which the QALY leans on the Rosser Index.
Justice can be approached from many angles in ethical and political debates, including those involving healthcare, biomedical research, and well-being. The main doctrines of justice are liberal egalitarianism, libertarianism, luck egalitarianism, socialism, utilitarianism, capability approach, communitarianism, and care ethics. These can be further elaborated in the light of traditional moral and social theories, values, ideals, and interests, and there are distinct dimensions of justice that are captured better by some tactics than by others. In this article, questions surrounding these matters are approached with the hermeneutic idea of a distinction between “American” and “European” ways of thinking.
Utilitarianism, the view that ‘actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness, wrong as they tend to produce the reverse of happiness’, is no longer taken seriously either as a moral principle or as a theory of tort law. Rights-based theories appear to have won the day. The purpose of this paper is to counter this trend and demonstrate that utilitarianism is not the implausible straw man that its opponents have constructed. Relying upon a version of utilitarianism advanced by the philosopher RM Hare, I will demonstrate that distinguishing between two levels of utilitarian thinking can provide a credible explanatory and normative theory of tort law that is immune to many of the critiques usually levelled at this theory. My final conclusion is that if a rights-based theory of tort law is convincing, it may be one with utilitarian foundations.
Thomas Carlyle (1795–1881) is well known as one of the earliest and most vociferous critics of Benthamite utilitarianism. However, Carlyle understood Benthamism as the culmination of a much longer eighteenth-century tradition of Epicurean thought. Having been an enthusiastic reader of David Hume during his youth, Carlyle later turned against him, waging an increasingly violent polemic against all forms of Epicureanism. In these later works, Carlyle not only rejected the pursuit of “pleasure” as an appropriate end for the life of the individual, but also took umbrage with Epicurean accounts of sociability as the philosophical underpinnings of laissez-faire, representative democracy, and “public opinion.” For Carlyle, self-interest, no matter how “enlightened,” balanced, or channeled by institutions, could never provide a stable foundation for a political community. Carlyle's contemporaries were aware that his work was intended as an attack on the Epicurean tradition. When John Stuart Mill attempted to defend Epicureanism against Carlyle, several of the latter's disciples and sympathizers responded by extending Carlyle's earlier censures on Epicureanism.
Utilitarians must think collectively about the future because many contemporary moral issues require collective responses to avoid possible future harms. But current rule utilitarianism does not accommodate the distant future. Drawing on my recent books Future People and Ethics for a Broken World, I defend a new utilitarianism whose central ethical question is: What moral code should we teach the next generation? This new theory honours utilitarianism’s past and provides the flexibility to adapt to the full range of credible futures – from futures broken by climate change to the digital, virtual and predictable futures produced by various possible technologies.
According to the priority view, or prioritarianism, it matters more to benefit people the worse off they are. But how exactly should the priority view be defined? This article argues for a highly general characterization which essentially involves risk, but makes no use of evaluative measurements or the expected utility axioms. A representation theorem is provided, and when further assumptions are added, common accounts of the priority view are recovered. A defence of the key idea behind the priority view, the priority principle, is provided. But it is argued that the priority view fails on both ethical and conceptual grounds.