indirect utilitarianism

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Indirect versions of utilitarianism apply in the first place to such things as institutions, systems of rules of conduct, or human characters. These are best if they maximize happiness, but actions are judged only in so far as they are those ordained by the institutions or by the system of rules, or are those that would be performed by the person of optimal character. Indirect versions of the doctrine overcome some of the problem that we are not likely to know, on individual occasions, which action will in fact maximize happiness. Even if we do not know that, we may know of the general impact institutions, rules, and character have on the happiness of those affected by them. Our position becomes like that of a referee in a game, who knows in a general way that the point of the rules is to maximize the participants' pleasure, but whose job is simply to enforce the rules, not to worry about their consequences.

Subjects: Philosophy.

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