Guest Essays

Utilitarianism and Nonhuman Animals

Jeff Sebo

This essay advances three claims about utilitarianism and nonhuman animals. Utilitarianism plausibly implies, first, that all vertebrates and many invertebrates morally matter, but that some of these animals might matter more than others; second, that we should attempt to both promote animal welfare and respect animal rights in practice; and third, that we should prioritize farmed and wild animals and work to support them.

Virtues for Real-World Utilitarians

Stefan Schubert & Lucius Caviola

This article discusses how utilitarians should go about applying their philosophy in the real world. It argues that utilitarians should cultivate a set of utilitarian virtues, including moderate altruism, moral expansiveness, effectiveness-focus, truth-seeking, collaborativeness, and determination.

Buddhism and Utilitarianism

Calvin Baker

This article analyses the extent to which elements of utilitarianism can be found within (i) the Early Buddhist tradition, and (ii) classical Indian Mahāyāna Buddhism. It then explores a Buddhist perspective on well-being, and concludes by comparing Engaged Buddhism to effective altruism.

Bentham and Criminal Law

Steven Sverdlik

Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832) sought to design a set of legal and political institutions that would conform to the ‘principle of utility’, i.e. produce the most happiness. This article presents a survey of his famous work, An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation, and discusses Bentham’s thinking about what utilitarian criminal law would look like.

Analytic Hedonism and Observable Moral Facts

Sharon Hewitt Rawlette

In this summary of her 2016 book The Feeling of Value, Sharon Hewitt Rawlette defends “analytic hedonism”. From our direct acquaintance with the intrinsic value of good and bad experiential states, we can build an entire ethical system that is fully grounded in observable fact.

Naturalistic Arguments for Ethical Hedonism

Neil Sinhababu

Many deny that objective and universal moral truth exists. Many more deny that it can be empirically discovered within natural reality. The arguments in this essay seek to empirically discover objective and universal moral truth in natural reality. This truth is that pleasure is goodness.

Utilitarianism and Research Ethics

Nir Eyal

This essay questions common assumptions about the philosophical foundations of research ethics. It argues that (I) utilitarianism can account for many core research ethics norms, (II) Kantian ethics may conflict with many core research ethics norms, and (III) a more utilitarian outlook would improve contemporary research ethics in concrete ways.

Uncertainty and Utilitarianism

Krister Bykvist

When we're less than fully certain of which moral view is correct, it may be wise to 'hedge our bets' by finding a compromise between the different views we find plausible. This essay especially explores the implications of moral uncertainty for utilitarian-friendly agents—those who have non-negligible confidence in utilitarianism or in some of its central claims.

Utilitarianism and Climate Change

John Broome

How does utilitarianism direct us to respond to climate change? This essay explores the harms caused by carbon emissions, how the cost-effectiveness of reducing emissions compares to other global priorities, and what both individuals and governments ought to do in light of these facts.