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Why So Few Utilitarians?

By ThinkProgress on October 13, 2007 at 10:09 am

"Why So Few Utilitarians?"

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Will Wilkinson, like me a fallen philosophy student, asserts inter alia: “surely Matt understands that the inability of utilitarianism to acknowledge principled constraints on the way people may use one another is the main reason why most moral philosophers believe utilitarianism to be false.” Can’t talk philosophy without distinguishing between reasons and causes! It’s always seemed to me that part of the sociology of the philosophical profession is that a lot of the causation tends to run in the other direction.

If you find yourself drawn to consequentialist views, you probably won’t find yourself doing work in the field of normative ethics or political philosophy. Similarly, reductionist views about consciousness seem to imply, among other things, that one oughtn’t spend a ton of time doing the philosophy of mind. The fields come to be dominated, numerically, by people who think there’s interesting and important work to be done in the field.

(I should say, I wouldn’t really accept the utilitarian label as such and I don’t think anything about a desire to curb economic inequality hinges fundamentally on whether or not one accepts utilitarianism)

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