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Chapter

Cover Contemporary Political Philosophy

2. Utilitarianism  

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.

Chapter

Cover Contemporary Political Philosophy

1. Introduction  

This edition provides an introduction to the major schools of thought that dominate contemporary debates in political philosophy. The focus is on theories which have attracted a certain allegiance, and which offer a more or less comprehensive vision of the ideals of politics. The text examines the notion, advanced by Ronald Dworkin, that every plausible political theory has the same ultimate value, which is equality. It considers another, more abstract and more fundamental, idea of equality in political theory — namely, the idea of treating people ‘as equals’. It also explores what it might mean for libertarianism to have freedom as its foundational value, or for utilitarianism to have utility as its foundational value. Finally, it analyses the relationship between moral and political philosophy and argues that the ultimate test of a theory of justice is that it should be concordant with, and help illuminate, our convictions of justice.

Chapter

Cover An Introduction to Political Philosophy

4. The Place of Liberty  

This chapter explores the theory that, to avoid the ‘tyranny of the majority’, we should be given the liberty to act just as we wish, provided that we do no harm to others. The focus is on John Stuart Mill's Liberty Principle (also known as the Harm Principle), according to which you may justifiably limit a person's freedom of action only if they threaten harm to another. The chapter considers Mill's arguments based on the Liberty Principle, including his claim there should be complete freedom of thought and discussion, and that harming another's interests is not a sufficient condition to justify constraint. It also discusses justifications for the Liberty Principle by focusing on issues of rights and utility, individuality and progress, and liberty as an intrinsic good. It concludes with an analysis of some of the problems of the kind of liberalism espoused by Mill's Liberty Principle.

Chapter

Cover An Introduction to Political Philosophy

4. The Place of Liberty  

This chapter explores the theory that, to avoid the ‘tyranny of the majority’, we should be given the liberty to act just as we wish, provided that we do no harm to others. The focus is on John Stuart Mill’s Liberty Principle (also known as the Harm Principle), according to which you may justifiably limit a person’s freedom of action only if they threaten harm to another. The chapter considers Mill’s arguments based on the Liberty Principle, including his claim there should be complete freedom of thought and discussion, and that harming another’s interests is not a sufficient condition to justify constraint. It also discusses justifications for the Liberty Principle by focusing on issues of rights and utility, individuality and progress, and liberty as an intrinsic good. It concludes with an analysis of some of the problems of the kind of liberalism espoused by Mill’s Liberty Principle.