Lecture 3: Utilitarianism and Justice Flashcards Preview

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Does utilitarianism neglect justice?

Objection from justice is one of the most important objections against utilitarianism
Mill himself recognised that "one of the strongest obstacles to the reception of the doctrine that Utility or Happiness is the criterion of right and wrong, has been drawn from the idea of justice


What does the justice objection against utilitarianism target?

-The aggregate principle
-Sum ranking:best consequences are determined by the sum of individual happiness
Mill takes idea of impartiality on which sum-ranking is based to honour the fundamental equality of all human-beings


Is the idea of impartiality on which sum-ranking is based sufficient to honour equality?

Problem: as the tax example illustrates, sum-ranking may recommend unequal distributions

Mill's response:
- Equality of outcomes is not necessarily just
-Inequalities which are necessary to maximise total happiness are just


What is justice?

Mills list of moral issues we typically associate with concerns of justice:
-Violation of rights legal and moral
-Not receiving what is deserved, receiving what is not deserved
- Violation of contracts
Violations of impartiality
-Failure to respect equality


What is Justice?
Mill argues that we associate justice with the protection of important interests.

"Justice is a name for certain moral requirements, which, regarded collectively, stand higher in the scale of social utility, and are therefore of more paramount obligation, than any others.


What does justice demand?

There are multiple conflicting principles which relate to justice
- "volenti non fit injuria"
- Principles of retribution ( an eye for an eye)
- Principles which specify desert
- Principles which specify equality ( Mill points to the communist principle of "to each according to their needs")


Without a first principle. Mill argues, appeal to these principles of justice is arbitrary
Mill thus defends utilitarianism as offering a basis for evaluating competing (secondary) principles of justice

-Justice is a device to protect particularly important interests ( interests captured by the secondary principles)
- Whether, and to what extent, we should honour these principles depends on their contribution to overall happiness


What is Act Utilitarianism?/

Whether an act is morally right depends on the consequence of that act itself


What is Rule Utilitarianism?

Rule utilitarianism as a form of indirect consequentialism: whether an act is morally right depends on the consequence of the rule it follows


Is Mill advocating rule utilitarianism?

Mills comments on secondary principles, and on punishment, in particular, suggest rule utilitarianism


Justice and rights?

Mill proposes that we associate justice with perfect duties
Problem; how plausible is the utilitarian account of moral rights?


What is a moral right?

Moral right to x implies
- One ought to have a legal right to x
there ought to be some form of sanction if one is deprived of x
one has a justified claim towards society for the protection of one's having x


What are the purposes of rights?

rights are typically understood as devices to safeguard individuals from collective pursuits


claim rights?

take the form of a claim towards someone else
correlate with perfect duties


Liberty right?

Take the form of an absence of duties to do certain things


In Utilitarianism what right does Mill focus on?

Claim rights


The puzzle for the utilitarian theory of rights?

- Rights limit pursuit of social utility
- utilitarian theory justifies rights on the basis of what maximises social utility


The Separateness of Persons Objection

John Rawl's 1971 objects that utilitarianism cannot do both
-utilitarianism does not take seriously the distinction between persons"
aiming at best consequences neglects restrictions on trading off benefits to different persons
-each person possesses an inviolability founded on justice which even the welfare of society as a whole cannot override


can rule utilitarianism avoid the objection?
cf. Mill's defence of the relevance of justice related secondary principles

- Rule utilitarianism is unstable : it either falls victim to rule worship or collapses back into act utilitarianism
it justifies rules with regard to contingent empirical facts and may justify a rule of slavery, for example