29 August 2008

Michael Lockwood on Utilitarianism

The great strength of a pure utilitarianism, whether it be couched in terms of the maximization of aggregate happiness, on the one hand, or of desire satisfaction, on the other, is its unity, its capacity to adjudicate non-arbitrarily between all competing moral claims. Once one allows a multiplicity of first principles, with resulting internal trade-offs, this strength is lost; and moreover, it becomes more difficult to offer convincing, principled resistance to those who would have one believe that the moral universe is a veritable jungle of diverse and independent principles and demands, of perhaps inexhaustible complexity.

(Michael Lockwood, "Singer on Killing and the Preference for Life," Inquiry 22 [summer 1979]: 157-70, at 158)

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