Utilitarianism and the Virtues

Philippa Foot

in Moral Dilemmas

Published in print October 2002 | ISBN: 9780199252848
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191597411 | DOI:
Utilitarianism and the Virtues

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Attacks Utilitarianism as a moral theory. Utilitarianism is a particular form of Consequentialism, and as such it is radically flawed; depending as it does on a vacuous use of expressions such as ‘best state of affairs.’ Genuine uses of such words are ‘agent relative,’ requiring as a background the desires or interests of particular individuals or groups. But in moral philosophy this relativity is supposed to be left behind. Right or wrong is supposed to be determined in relation to a best possible state of affairs ‘from a moral point of view.’ But what does this mean? It is true that a more or less determinate end is internal to the virtue of benevolence, but benevolence is not the whole of morality.

Keywords: consequentialism; moral virtues; utilitarianism

Chapter.  8063 words. 

Subjects: Moral Philosophy

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