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This chapter examines the practical implications of utilitarianism as a political morality. It first considers two features of utilitarianism that make it an attractive theory of political morality. First, the goal being promoted by utilitarians does not depend on the existence of God, or a soul, or any other dubious metaphysical entity. The second attraction is utilitarianism’s ‘consequentialism’. The chapter proceeds by breaking utilitarianism into two parts: an account of human welfare, or ‘utility’, and an instruction to maximize utility, giving equal weight to each person’s utility. It also discusses the two main arguments for viewing utility maximization as the standard of moral rightness: equal consideration of interests, and teleological utilitarianism. Finally, it evaluates utilitarians’ claim that every source of happiness, or every kind of preference, should be given the same weight, if it yields equal utility. The chapter argues that utilitarianism is inadequate as an account of equal consideration.


Robert Garner

This chapter examines two related, but distinct, political concepts — justice and freedom. It first considers various possible constraints on freedom before discussing the degree to which freedom is desirable. It then explores various alternative values that might conflict with freedom, mainly in the context of John Stuart Mill’s political thought; these include equality, paternalism, and happiness. The chapter proceeds by analysing the concept of justice and various criteria for determining its meaning in the context of the major competing theories of justice provided by John Rawls and Robert Nozick. Finally, it evaluates alternative theories of justice which challenge the conventional liberal view that theories of justice should focus only on the nation-state and are applicable only to human beings.