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90 T H E E L E M E N T S O F MO\iAL P H I L O S O P H Y

the starving c h i l d r e n we c o u l d feed by g i v i n g u p some o f o u r


l u x u r i t ^ ^ ^ h y s h o u l d we c a r e a b o u t tj>eifi? W e c a r e a b o u t o u r -
selves, o f ^ ^ q j s e — i f we w e r e s t a r v i r ^ ' w e w o u l d g o t o a l m o s t a n y
l e n g t h s t o ^ > 4 ^ c l . B u t w h a t s i s ' t h e d i f f e r e n c e b e t w e e n us a n d
CHAPTER 7
t h e m ? D o e s h \ i ^ g | ' r ^ f f e c ; t < ^ e m a n y less? A r e t h e y s o m e h o w less
d e s e r v i n g t h a n viiKl§^p:''(:ah find n o relevant difference
t w e e n us a n d them^^p^fc^jye m u s t a d m i t t h a t i f o u r n e e d s s h o u l d
be-
Y^he Utilitarian Approach
b e m e t , so shaLrp^nei|'s,;^Jt^^this r e a l i z a t i o n , t h a t we a r e o n a
par with one'^^^fher, th"^a(iH^^i>fcdeepest r e a s o n w h y o u r m o r a l -
G i v e n o u r p r e s e n t perspective, i t is a m a z i n g that C h r i s t i a n e t h i c s
i t ) ' mu^ym^m'e some recdgrrk^b^ff^f the needs o f others, and
d o w n t h r o u g h the c e n t u r i e s c o u l d have accepted a l m o s t
w h v , x d i e ^ ^ t h i c a l E g o i s m fails a s X m o r a l theory.
u n a n i m o u s l y t h e s e n t e n t i o u s d o c t r i n e t h a t " t h e e n d does n o t j u s t i f y
the m e a n s . " We have to ask now, " I f the e n d does n o t j u s t i f ) ' t h e
means, w h a t does?" T h e answer is, obviously, " N o t h i n g ! "
J O S E P H F L E T C H E R , MORAL RESPONSIBILITY

7.1. The Revolution in Ethics


Philosophers like to t h i n k their ideas can change the world.
U s u a l l y , i t is a v a i n h o p e : T h e y w r i t e b o o k s t h a t a r e r e a d b y a
few other l i k e - m i n d e d thinkers, while the rest o f h u i n a n i t y
goes o n u n a f f e c t e d . On occasion, however, a philosophical
t h e o r y can alter the way p e o p l e t h i n k . U t i l i t a r i a n i s m , a t h e o r y
proposed by D a v i d H u m e (1711-1776) but given definitive
f o r m u l a t i o n by Jereiriy B e n t h a m (1748-1832) and J o h n Stuart
M i l l ( 1 8 0 6 - 1 8 7 3 ) , is a c a s e i n p o i n t .
T h e late 1 8 t h a n d I 9 t h c e n t u r i e s p r o d u c e d a n astonishing
series o f upheavals. T h e m o d e r n nation-state was e m e r g i n g i n
the aftermath o f the French Revolution a n d the wreckage o f the
N a p o l e o n i c e m p i r e ; t h e r e v o l u t i o n s o f 1848 s h o w e d the c o n t i n -
u i n g power o f the new ideas o f "liberty, equality, fraternity"; i n
A m e r i c a , a n e w c o u n t r y w i t h a n e w k i n d o f c o n s t i t u t i o n was c r e -
a t e d , a n d its b l o o d y c i v i l w a r was t o p u t a n e n d , finally, to slavery
i n Western civilization; a n d all the w h i l e the i n d u s t r i a l r e v o l u -
t i o n was b r i n g i n g a b o u t a c o m p l e t e r e s t r u c t u r i n g o f s o c i e t y .
I t is n o t s u r p r i s i n g t h a t i n t h e m i d s t o f a l l t h i s c h a n g e p e o -
p l e m i g h t b e g i n to t h i n k d i f f e r e n t l y a b o u t e t h i c s . T h e o l d ways
o f t h i n k i n g w e r e very m u c h u p i n t h e air, o p e n t o c h a l l e n g e .
A g a i n s t this b a c k g r o u n d , B e n t h a m ' s a r g u m e n t f o r a n e w con-
ception of morality had a powerful influence. Morality, he

91
92 T H E E L E M E N T S O F M O R A L p|^Ii;|sOPHY T H E UTILITARIAN APPROACH 93

u r g e d , is n o t a m a t t e r o f p l e a s i n g G o d , n o r is i t a m a t t e r o f f a i t h - T h i s , b e i n g , a c c o r d i n g to the u t i l i t a r i a n o p i n i o n , the e n d
o f h u m a n a c t i o n , is necessarily also the s t a n d a r d o f m o r a l -
f u l n e s s t o a b s t r a c t r u l e s . M o r a l i t y is j u s t t h e a t t e m p t t o b r i n g
ity, w h i c h may a c c o r d i n g l y be d e f i n e d , as the rules a n d p r e -
a b o u t as m u c h h a p p i n e s s as p o s s i b l e i n t h i s w o r l d .
cepts f o r h u m a n c o n d u c t , by the observance o f w h i c h an
B e n t h a m a r g u e d t h a t t h e r e is o n e u l t i m a t e m o r a l p r i n c i -
existence such as has b e e n d e s c r i b e d m i g h t be, to the
ple, n a m e l y "the Principle o f Utilit)'." T h i s p r i n c i p l e requires greatest e x t e n t possible, secured to all m a n k i n d , a n d n o t to
t h a t w h e n e v e r we h a v e a c h o i c e b e t w e e n a l t e r n a t i v e a c t i o n s o r t h e m only, b u t , so f a r as the n a t u r e o f t h i n g s a d m i t s , to t h e
s o c i a l p o l i c i e s , w e m u s t c h o o s e t h e o n e t h a t has t h e b e s t o v e r a l l whole of sentient creation.
c o n s e q u e n c e s f o r e v e r y o n e c o n c e r n e d . O r , as h e p u t i t i n h i s
I n d e c i d i n g w h a t t o d o , w e s h o u l d , t h e r e f o r e , ask w h a t c o u r s e o f
b o o k The Principles of Morals and Legislation, p u b l i s h e d i n the
c o n d u c t w o u l d p r o m o t e the greatest a m o u n t o f happiness for
year o f t h e F r e n c h R e v o l u t i o n :
all those w h o w i l l be a f f e c t e d . M o r a l i t y r e q u i r e s t h a t we d o w h a t
By the P r i n c i p l e of U t i l i t y is m e a n t t h a t p r i n c i p l e w h i c h ap- is b e s t f r o m t h a t p o i n t o f v i e w .
proves o r disapproves o f every a c t i o n whatsoever, accord- A t first glance, this inay n o t seem like such a radical idea; i n
i n g to the t e n d e n c y w h i c h i t appears to have to a u g m e n t o r f a c t i t m a y s e e m a m i l d t r u i s m . W h o c o u l d argxie w i t h t h e p r o p o -
d i m i n i s h the happiness o f the party whose interest is i n s i t i o n t h a t we s h o u l d o p p o s e s u f f e r i n g a n d p r o m o t e h a p p i n e s s ?
q u e s t i o n ; o r what is the same t h i n g i n o t h e r words, to p r o -
Yet i n t h e i r o w n way B e n t h a m a n d M i l l w e r e l e a d i n g a r e v o l u t i o n
m o t e o r to oppose that happiness.
as r a d i c a l as e i t h e r o f t h e o t h e r t w o g r e a t i n t e l l e c t u a l r e v o l u t i o n s
B e n t h a m was t h e l e a d e r o f a g r o u p o f p h i l o s o p h i c a l r a d i - in the 19th century, those o f M a r x a n d D a r w i n . T o u n d e r s t a n d
cals w h o s e a i m was t o r e f o r m t h e laws a n d i n s t i t u t i o n s o f E n g - the radicalness o f the P r i n c i p l e o f UtiUt)', we have to a p p r e c i a t e
l a n d a l o n g u t i l i t a r i a n l i n e s . O n e o f h i s f o l l o w e r s was J a m e s M i l l , w h a t i t leaves o a i o f its p i c t u r e o f m o r a l i t y : G o n e a r e a l l r e f e r e n c e s
the d i s t i n g u i s h e d Scottish p h i l o s o p h e r , h i s t o r i a n , a n d e c o n o - to G o d o r to abstract m o r a l rules " w r i t t e n i n the heavens." M o r a l -
mist. James M i l l ' s son, J o h n Stuart M i l l , w o u l d b e c o m e the lead- i t y is n o l o n g e r t o be u n d e r s t o o d as f a i t h f u l n e s s t o s o m e d i v i n e l y
ing advocate o f utilitarian m o r a l theory f o r the n e x t generadon, g i v e n c o d e o r t o s o m e set o f i n f l e x i b l e r u l e s . T h e p o i n t o f m o r a l -
so t h e B e n t h a m i t e m o v e m e n t w o u l d c o n U n u e u n a b a t e d e v e n af- i t y is s e e n as t h e h a p p i n e s s o f b e i n g s i n t h i s w o r l d , a n d n o t h i n g
t e r its f o u n d e r ' s d e a t h . m o r e ; a n d we a r e p e r m i t t e d — e v e n r e q u i r e d — t o d o w h a t e v e r is
B e n t h a m was f o r t u n a t e t o h a v e s u c h d i s c i p l e s . J o h n S t u a r t n e c e s s a r y t o p r o m o t e t h a t h a p p i n e s s . T h a t , i n its d m e , was a r e v -
M i l l ' s a d v o c a c y was, i f a n y t h i n g , e v e n m o r e e l e g a n t a n d p e r s u a - o l u t i o n a r y idea.
sive t h a n t h e m a s t e r ' s . I n his l i t d e b o o k Utilitarianism (1861), T h e u d l i t a r i a n s w e r e , as I s a i d , s o c i a l r e f o r m e r s as w e l l as
M i l l p r e s e n t s t h e m a i n i d e a o f t h e t h e o r y i n t h e f o l l o w i n g way. philosophers. They i n t e n d e d their d o c t r i n e to make a differ-
F i r s t , w e e n v i s i o n a c e r t a i n state o f a f f a i r s t h a t we w o u l d l i k e to ence, n o t o n l y i n t h o u g h t b u t i n practice. T o illustrate this, we
see c o m e a b o u t — a state o f a f f a i r s i n w h i c h a l l p e o p l e a r e as will briefly examine the implications o f their p h i l o s o p h y f o r two
h a p p y a n d w e l l - o f f as t h e y c a n b e : r a t h e r d i f f e r e n t p r a c t i c a l issues: e u t h a n a s i a a n d t h e t r e a t m e n t
o f n o n h u m a n animals. T h e s e matters d o n o t by any m e a n s ex-
A c c o r d i n g to t h e i S r e a t e s t H a p p i n e s s P r i n c i p l e ; . . the u l -
haust the p r a c d c a l a p p l i c a t i o n s o f U d h t a r i a n i s m ; n o r are t h e y
t i m a t e e n d , w i t h reference to a n d f o r the sake o f w h i c h all
n e c e s s a r i l y t h e issues t h a t u t i l i t a r i a n s w o u l d find m o s t p r e s s i n g .
o t h e r t h i n g s are desirable ( w h e t h e r we are c o n s i d e r i n g
o u r o w n g o o d o r t h a t o f o t h e r p e o p l e ) , is a n existence ex- B u t they d o give a g o o d i n d i c a t i o n o f the k i n d o f d i s t i n c t i v e a p -
e m p t as free as possible f r o m p a i n , a n d as rich as possible proach that Utilitarianism provides.
in e n j o y m e n t s .
7.2. First Example: Euthanasia
T h e p r i m a r y r u l e o f m o r a l i t y c a n , t h e n , be s t a t e d s i m p l y . I t is
t o a c t so as t o b r i n g a b o u t t h i s s t a t e o f a f f a i r s , i n s o f a r as t h a t is M a t t h e w D o n n e l l y was a p h y s i c i s t w h o h a d w o r k e d v\dth X - r a y s f o r
possible: 3 0 years. P e r h a p s as a r e s u l t o f t o o m u c h e x p o s u r e , h e c o n t r a c t e d
94 T H E ELEMENTS O F MORAL PHILOSOPHY T H E UTILJTARL\ APPROACH 95

c a n c e r a n d l o s t p a r t o f his j a w , h i s u p p e r l i p , his n o s e , a n d h i s l e f t m o s t affected w o u l d , o f course, be M a t t h e w D o n n e l l y h i m s e l f . I f


h a n d , as w e l l as t w o f i n g e r s f r o m h i s r i g h t h a n d . H e was also l e f t H a r o l d does n o t k i l l h i m , h e w i l l live o n , f o r p e r h a p s a year.
b l i n d . M r . D o n n e l l y ' s p h y s i c i a n s t o l d h i m t h a t h e h a d a b o u t a year Mind, mudlated, and in continuing pain. H o w much unhappi-
t o l i v e , b u t h e d e c i d e d t h a t h e d i d n o t w a n t t o g o o n li\Tng i n s u c h ness w o u l d t h i s i n v o l v e ? I t is h a r d t o say p r e c i s e l y ; b u t M a t t h e w
a state. H e was i n c o n s t a n t p a i n . O n e w r i t e r s a i d t h a t " a t its w o r s t , D o n n e l l y ' s o w n t e s d m o n y was t h a t h e was so u n h a p p y i n t h i s
h e c o u l d be s e e n l ) ' i n g i n b e d w i t h t e e t h c l i n c h e d a n d b e a d s o f c o n d i d o n that he preferred death. Killing h i m would provide
p e r s p i r a u o n s t a n d i n g o u t o n h i s f o r e h e a d . " I C n o w i n g t h a t h e was a n escape f r o m this misery. T h e r e f o r e , u t i l i t a r i a n s have c o n -
g o i n g t o d i e e v e n t u a l l y anyway, a n d w a n d n g t o escape t h i s m i s e i y c l u d e d t h a t e u t h a n a s i a m a y , i n s u c h a case, b e m o r a l l y r i g h t .
Mr. D o n n e l l y b e g g e d his three b r o t h e r s to k i l l h i m . T w o refused, A l t h o u g h t h i s k i n d o f a r g u m e n t is v e r y d i f f e r e n t f r o m w h a t
b u t o n e d i d n o t . T h e y o u n g e s t b r o t h e r , 36-year-old H a r o l d D o n - o n e finds i n t h e C h r i s t i a n t r a d i d o n — a s I s a i d b e f o r e , i t d e p e n d s
nelly, carried a .30-caliber p i s t o l i n t o the h o s p i t a l a n d shot o n n o t h e o l o g i c a l c o n c e p t i o n s , a n d i t has n o use f o r i n f l e x i b l e
M a t t h e w to death. " r u l e s " — t h e classical u t i l i t a r i a n s d i d n o t t h i n k t h e y w e r e a d v o -
T h i s , u n f o r t u n a t e l y , is a t r u e s t o r y , a n d t h e q u e s d o n n a t u - c a t i n g a n atheistic o r a n t i r e l i g i o u s p h i l o s o p h y . B e n t h a m sug-
r a l l y arises w h e t h e r H a r o l d D o n n e l l y d i d w r o n g . O n t h e o n e gests t h a t r e l i g i o n w o u l d e n d o r s e , n o t c o n d e m n , t h e u t i U t a r i a n
h a n d , we m a y a s s u m e t h a t h e was m o t i v a t e d b y n o b l e s e n t i - v i e w p o i n t i f o n l y its a d h e r e n t s w o u l d t a k e s e r i o u s l y t h e i r v i e w o f
m e n t s ; he l o v e d his b r o t h e r a n d w a n t e d o n l y to relieve his mis- G o d as a benevolent crea.tor. H e v\Tites:
ery. M o r e o v e r , M a t t h e w h a d a s k e d t o d i e . A l l this argues f o r a le-
n i e n t j u d g m e n t . Nevertheless, a c c o r d i n g to the d o m i n a n t T h e dictates o f r e l i g i o n w o u l d c o i n c i d e , i n all cases, w i t h
m o r a l t r a d i d o n i n o u r society, w h a t H a r o l d D o n n e l l y d i d was those o f utility, were the B e i n g , w h o is the o b j e c t of r e l i -
unacceptable. g i o n , universally s u p p o s e d to be as b e n e v o l e n t as he is sup-
posed to be wise a n d p o w e r f u l . . . B u t a m o n g the votaries
T h e d o m i n a n t m o r a l t r a d i t i o n i n o u r s o c i e t y is, o f c o u r s e ,
o f r e l i g i o n ( o f w h i c h n u m b e r the m u l t i f a r i o u s f r a t e r n i t y o f
t h e C h r i s t i a n t r a d i t i o n . C h r i s d a n i t y h o l d s t h a t h u m a n l i f e is a
Christians is b u t a s m a l l p a r t ) there s e e m to be b u t f e w ( I
g i f t f r o m G o d , so t h a t o n l y h e m a y d e c i d e w h e n i t w i l l e n d . T h e w i l l n o t say h o w f e w ) w h o are real believers i n his b e n e v o -
early c h u r c h p r o h i b i t e d all k i U i n g , b e l i e v i n g t h a t Jesus' teach- lence. T h e y call h i m b e n e v o l e n t i n w o r d s , b u t they d o n o t
ings o n this subject p e r m i t t e d n o e x c e p t i o n s to the r u l e . Later, m e a n t h a t he is so i n reality.
some excepdons were made, chiefly to allow capital punish-
m e n t a n d k i l l i n g i n war. B u t o t h e r k i n d s o f k i l l i n g , i n c l u d i n g T h e m o r a l i t y o f m e r c y k i l l i n g m i g h t b e a case i n p o i n t . H o w ,
suicide and euthanasia, r e m a i n e d f o r b i d d e n . To summarize B e n t h a m m i g h t ask, c o u l d a b e n e v o l e n t G o d f o r b i d t h e k i l h n g
t h e c h u r c h ' s d o c t r i n e , t h e o l o g i a n s f o r m u l a t e d a r u l e .saying o f M a t t h e w D o n n e l l y ? I f s o m e o n e w e r e t o say t h a t G o d is k i n d
t h a t the intentional killing of innocent people is always wrong. T h i s b u t t h a t h e r e q u i r e s M r . D o n n e l l y to s u f f e r f o r t h e a d d i t i o n a l
c o n c e p t i o n has, m o r e t h a n any o t h e r s i n g l e i d e a , s h a p e d West- y e a r b e f o r e finally d y i n g , t h i s w o u l d b e e x a c t l y w h a t B e n t h a m
e r n a t t i t u d e s a b o u t t h e m o r a l i t y o f k i l l i n g . T h a t is w h y w e a r e m e a n s by " c a l l i n g h i m b e n e v o l e n t i n w o r d s , b u t n o t m e a n i n g
so r e l u c t a n t t o e x c u s e H a r o l d D o n n e l l y , e v e n t h o u g h h e m a y t h a t h e is so i n r e a l i t y "
have acted f r o m n o b l e motives. H e i n t e n d o n a l l y k i l l e d an i n - B u t the majority o f religious people d o n o t agree w i t h B e n -
n o c e n t person; therefore, a c c o r d i n g to o u r m o r a l t r a d i t i o n , t h a m , a n d n o t only o u r m o r a l t r a d i t i o n b u t o u r legal t r a d i t i o n
w h a t h e d i d was w r o n g . has e v o l v e d u n d e r t h e i n f l u e n c e o f C h r i s t i a n i t y . E u t h a n a s i a is i l -
U t i l i t a r i a n i s m takes a v e r y d i f f e r e n t a p p r o a c h . I t w o u l d legal i n every W e s t e r n n a t i o n e x c e p t H o l l a n d . I n the U n i t e d
h a v e us ask: C o n s i d e r i n g t h e c h o i c e s a v a i l a b l e t o H a r o l d D o n - States, i t is s i m p l y m u r d e r , a n d H a r o l d D o n n e l l y was d u l y a r -
n e l l y w h i c h o n e w o u l d have the best o v e r a l l consequences? rested a n d charged. ( I d o n o t k n o w w h a t h a p p e n e d i n court, al-
W h a t action w o u l d p r o d u c e the greatest balance o f happiness t h o u g h i t is c o m m o n i n s u c h cases f o r t h e d e f e n d a n t t o b e
o v e r u n h a p p i n e s s f o r a l l c o n c e r n e d ? T h e p e r s o n w h o w o u l d be f o u n d g u i l t y o f a lesser c h a r g e a n d g i v e n a l i g h t s e n t e n c e . ) W h a t
96 T H E ELEMENTS OF MORAL PHILOSOPHY T H E UTILITARIAN APPROACH 97

w o u l d U d l i t a r i a n i s m say a b o u t this? I f , o n t h e u t i l i t a r i a n v i e w , 7.3. Second Example: Nonhuman Animals


e u t h a n a s i a is m o r a l , s h o u l d i t a l s o be m a d e l e g a l ?
T h e t r e a t m e n t o f n o n h u m a n s has n o t t r a d i d o n a l l y b e e n re-
T h i s q u e s d o n is c o n n e c t e d w i t h t h e m o r e g e n e r a l q u e s d o n
g a r d e d as p r e s e n d n g m u c h o f a m o r a l issue. T h e C h r i s d a n t r a d i -
o f w h a t t h e p u r p o s e o f t h e l a w o u g h t t o b e . B e n t h a m was
d o n says t h a t m a n a l o n e is m a d e i n G o d ' s i m a g e a n d t h a t m e r e
t r a i n e d i n t h e law, a n d h e t h o u g h t o f t h e P r i n c i p l e o f U t i l i t y as
a n i m a l s d o n o t even have souls. T h u s the n a t u r a l o r d e r o f t h i n g s
a g u i d e f o r l e g i s l a t o r s as w e l l as f o r o r d i n a r y p e o p l e m a k i n g i n -
p e r m i t s h u m a n s t o use a n i m a l s f o r a n y p u r p o s e t h e y see fit. St.
d i v i d u a l m o r a l d e c i s i o n s . T h e p u r p o s e o f t h e l a w is t h e s a m e as
T h o m a s A q u i n a s s u m m e d u p the traditional view w h e n he w r o t e :
that o f morals: I t s h o u l d p r o m o t e the general welfare o f all citi-
z e n s . B e n t h a m t h o u g h t i t o b v i o u s t h a t i f t h e l a w is t o serve t h i s H e r e b y is r e f u t e d the e r r o r o f those w h o said i t is s i n f u l f o r
purpose, it s h o u l d n o t restrict the f r e e d o m o f cidzens any m o r e a m a n to k i l l d u m b animals: f o r by d i v i n e p r o v i d e n c e they
t h a n necessary. I n p a r t i c u l a r , n o t y p e o f a c t i v i t y s h o u l d be p r o - are i n t e n d e d f o r m a n ' s use i n t h e n a t u r a l o r d e r . H e n c e i t is
h i b i t e d u n l e s s , i n e n g a g i n g i n t h a t a c t i v i t y , o n e is d o i n g h a r m t o n o w r o n g f o r m a n to m a k e use o f t h e m , e i t h e r by k i l l i n g
o t h e r s . B e n t h a m o b j e c t e d t o laws r e g u l a t i n g t h e s e x u a l c o n d u c t t h e m o r i n any o t h e r way w h a t e v e r
o f " c o n s e n d n g adults," f o r e x a m p l e , o n the g r o u n d s that such
B u t i s n ' t i t w r o n g t o b e cruel t o a n i m a l s ? A c j u i n a s c o n c e d e s t h a t
c o n d u c t is n o t h a r m f u l t o o t h e r s , a n d b e c a u s e s u c h laws d i m i n -
i t is, b u t h e says t h e r e a s o n has t o d o w i t h h u m a n w e l f a r e , n o t
i s h r a t h e r t h a n i n c r e a s e h a p p i n e s s . B u t i t was M i l l w h o gave t h i s
the welfare o f the animals themselves:
p r i n c i p l e its m o s t e l o q u e n t e x p r e s s i o n , w h e n h e w r o t e i n h i s es-
say On Liberty (1859): I f any passages o f H o l y W r i t seem to f o r b i d us to be c r u e l to
d u m b a n i m a l s , f o r instance to k i l l a b i r d w i t h its y o u n g : this
T h e sole e n d f o r w h i c h m a n k i n d are w a r r a n t e d , i n d i v i d u - is e i t h e r to r e m o v e man's t h o u g h t s f r o m b e i n g c r u e l to
ally o r collectively, i n i n t e r f e r i n g w i t h the l i b e r t y o f a c t i o n o t h e r m e n , a n d lest t h r o u g h b e i n g c r u e l to a n i m a l s o n e
o f any o f t h e i r n u m b e r , is s e l f - p r o t e c t i o n . T h e o n l y p u r p o s e becomes c r u e l to h u m a n beings: o r because i n j u r y to an
f o r w h i c h power can be r i g h t f u l l y exercised over any m e m - a n i m a l leads to the t e m p o r a l h u r t o f m a n , e i t h e r the d o e r
b e r o f a civilized c o m m u n i t y , against his w i l l , is to p r e v e n t o f the d e e d , o r o f a n o t h e r .
h a r m to others. H i s o w n g o o d , physical o r m o r a l , is n o t a
s u f f i c i e n t w a r r a n t . . . Over himself, over his o w n body a n d T h u s p e o p l e a n d a n i m a l s are i n separate m o r a l c a t e g o r i e s .
m i n d , the i n d i v i d u a l is sovereign. Strictly speaking, animals have n o m o r a l s t a n d i n g o f t h e i r
o w n . We are free to treat t h e m i n a n y way t h a t m i g h t s e e m to
/ ' T h u s , f o r t h e classical u t i l i t a r i a n s , laws p r o h i b i d n g e u - our advantage.
t h a n a s i a a r e n o t o n l y c o n t r a r y t o t h e g e n e r a l w e l f a r e , OTey a r e W h e n i t is s p e l l e d o u t as b a l d l y as t h i s , t h e t r a d i t i o n a l d o c -
also u p j u s d f i a b l e r e s t r i c t i o n s o n p e o p l e ' s r i g h t to c o n t r o l t h e i r t r i n e m i g h t m a k e o n e a l i t d e n e r v o u s : I t seems r a t h e r e x t r e m e
o w n l i v e s J W h e n H a r o l d D o n n e l l y k i l l e d h i s b r o t h e r , h e was as- i n its l a c k o f c o n c e r n f o r t h e a n i m a l s , m a n y o f w h o m are, a f t e r
s i s d n g h i m i n c o n c l u d i n g his o w n l i f e i n a m a n n e r t h a t h e h a d all, i n t e l l i g e n t a n d sensitive creatures. Yet o n l y a l i t t l e r e f l e c d o n
c h o s e n . N o h a r m was c a u s e d t o a n y o n e else, a n d so i t was n o n e is n e e d e d t o see h o w m u c h o u r c o n d u c t is a c t u a l l y g u i d e d b y
o f t h e i r business. M o s t A m e r i c a n s s e e m to agree w i t h this p o i n t t h i s d o c t r i n e . W e e a t a n i m a l s ; w e use t h e m as e x p e r i m e n t a l s u b -
o f v i e w , a t l e a s t w h e n i t is a p r a c t i c a l issue f o r t h e m . I n a 2 0 0 0 j e c t s i n o u r l a b o r a t o r i e s ; w e use t h e i r s k i n s f o r c l o t h i n g a n d
study c o n d u c t e d by the N a d o n a l Institutes o f H e a l t h , 6 0 % o f t h e i r h e a d s as w a l l o r n a m e n t s ; w e m a k e t h e m t h e o b j e c t s o f o u r
t e r m i n a l l y i l l p a d e n t s said t h a t e u t h a n a s i a o r physician-assisted a m u s e m e n t i n z o o s a n d r o d e o s ; a n d , i n d e e d , t h e r e is a p o p u l a r
suicide s h o u l d be available u p o n request. C o n s i s t e n t w i t h his s p o r t t h a t consists i n t r a c k i n g t h e m d o w n a n d k i l l i n g t h e m j u s t
p h i l o s o p h y , B e n t h a m h i m s e l f is s a i d t o h a v e r e q u e s t e d e u - for the f u n o f it.
t h a n a s i a i n h i s final days, a l t h o u g h w e d o n o t k n o w w h e t h e r t h i s I f o n e is u n c o m f o r t a b l e w i t h t h e t h e o l o g i c a l " j u s t i f i c a d o n "
r e q u e s t was g r a n t e d . for these p r a c d c e s . W e s t e r n p h i l o s o p h e r s have o f f e r e d a n
98 T H E E L E M E N T S O F MORAJ. PH [ L O S O P H Y T H E UTILITARIAN APPROACH 99

a b u n d a n c e o f s e c u l a r o n e s . I t is s a i d , v a r i o u s l y , t h a t a n i m a l s a r e t h e e q u a l s o f h u m a n s ? I n s o m e ways B e n t h a m a n d M i l l t h o u g h t
n o t rational, t h a t t h e y l a c k t h e a b i l i t y t o speak, o r t h a t t h e y s i m - so, b u t t h e y w e r e c a r e f u l t o p o i n t o u t t h a t t h i s d o e s n o t m e a n
p l y a r e n o t human—and a l l t h e s e a r e g i v e n as r e a s o n s w h y t h e i r t h a t a n i m a l s a n d h u m a n s m u s t always be t r e a t e d i n t h e s a m e
interests are o u t s i d e the s p h e r e o f m o r a l c o n c e r n . way T h e r e are factual differences b e t w e e n t h e m that o f t e n will
T h e u t i l i t a r i a n s , h o w e v e r , w o u l d have n o n e o f t h i s . O n jtistify differences i n t r e a t m e n t For e x a m p l e , because h u m a n s
t h e i r view, w h a t m a t t e r s is n o t w h e t h e r a n i n d i v i d u a l has a s o u l , have i n t e l l e c t u a l capacities t h a t a n i m a l s lack, t h e y are able to
is r a t i o n a l , o r a n y o f t h e r e s t . A l l t h a t m a t t e r s is w h e t h e r h e is take pleasure i n t h i n g s t h a t n o n h u m a n s c a n n o t e n j o y — h u m a n s
capable o f e x p e r i e n c i n g happiness a n d unhappiness, pleasure c a n d o i r i a t h e m a t i c s , a p p r e c i a t e l i t e r a t u r e , a n d so o n . A n d s i m -
a n d p a i n . I f a n i n d i v i d u a l is c a p a b l e o f s u f f e r i n g , t h e n w e h a v e i l a r l y , t h e i r s u p e r i o r c a p a c i t i e s m i g h t m a k e theiTi c a p a b l e o f
a d u t y to take t h a t i n t o a c c o u n t w h e n we are d e c i d i n g w h a t to f r u s t r a u o n s a n d d i s a p p o i n t m e n t s t h a t o t h e r a n i m a l s are n o t
d o , e v e n i f t h e i n d i v i d u a l i n q u e s t i o n is n o t h u m a n . I n f a c t , able to experience. T h u s o u r d u t y to p r o m o t e happiness entails
B e n t h a m a r g u e s , w h e t h e r t h e i n d i v i d u a l is h u m a n o r n o n h u - a d u t y t o p r o m o t e t h o s e s p e c i a l e n j o y m e n t s f o r t h e m , as w e l l as
m a n is j u s t as i r r e l e v a n t as w h e t h e r h e is b l a c k o r w h i t e . B e n - to p r e v e n t any special u n h a p p i n e s s e s to w h i c h t h e y are v u l n e r -
t h a m writes: a b l e . A t t h e s a m e d m e , h o w e v e r , i n s o f a r as t h e w e l f a r e o f o t h e r
a n i m a l s is a f f e c t e d b y o u r c o n d u c t , w e h a v e a s t r i c t m o r a l d u t y
T h e day may c o m e w h e n the rest o f the a n i m a l c r e a t i o n to take t h a t i n t o a c c o u n t , a n d t h e i r s u f f e r i n g c o u n t s e q u a l l y w i t h
may a c q u i r e those rights w h i c h never c o u l d have b e e n any s i m i l a r s u f f e r i n g e x p e r i e n c e d by a h u i n a n .
w i t h o l d e n f r o m t h e m b u t by the h a n d o f tyranny. T h e
C o n t e m p o r a r y u t i l i t a r i a n s h a v e s o m e d m e s r e s i s t e d t h i s as-
F r e n c h have already discovered t h a t the blackness o f the
p e c t o f t h e c l a s s i c a l d o c t r i n e , a n d t h a t is n o t s u r p r i s i n g . O u r
s k i n is n o reason why a h u m a n b e i n g s h o u l d be a b a n d o n e d
w i t h o u t redress to the caprice o f a t o r m e n t o r . I t may o n e " r i g h t " t o k i l l , e x p e r i m e n t o n , a n d o t h e r w i s e u s e a n i m a l s as w e
day c o m e to be recognized t h a t the n u m b e r o f the legs, the p l e a s e s e e m s t o m o s t o f u s so o b v i o u s t h a t i t is h a r d t o b e l i e v e
villosity o f the skin, o r the t e r m i n a t i o n o f the os sacrum are we r e a l l y a r e b e h a v i n g as b a d l y as B e n t h a m a n d M i l l s u g g e s t .
reasons equally i n s u f f i c i e n t f o r a b a n d o n i n g a sensitive be- S o m e c o n t e m p o r a r ) ' utilitarians, however, have p r o d u c e d p o w -
i n g to the same fate. W h a t else is i t t h a t s h o u l d trace the i n - erful arguments that B e n t h a m and M i l l were r i g h t T h e philoso-
superable line? Is it the f a c u l t y o f reason, o r perhaps the p h e r Peter Singer, i n a b o o k w i t h the o d d - s o u n d i n g d t l e Animal
faculty o f discourse? B u t a f u l l - g r o w n horse o r d o g is be- Liberation ( 1 9 7 . 5 ) , has u r g e d , f o l l o w i n g t h e p r i n c i p l e s l a i d d o w n
y o n d c o m p a r i s o n a m o r e r a t i o n a l , as well as a m o r e c o n - by B e n t h a m a n d M i l l , t h a t o u r t r e a t m e n t o f n o n h u m a n a n i m a l s
versable a n i m a l , t h a n an i n f a n t o f a day o r a week o r even
is d e e p l y o b j e c d o n a b l e .
a m o n t h o l d . B u t suppose they were otherwise, w h a t w o u l d
i t avail? T h e q u e s t i o n is n o t . Can they reason? r\or Can they S i n g e r asks h o w w e c a n p o s s i b l y j u s t i f y e x p e r i m e n t s s u c h as
talk? b u t . Can they suffer? this o n e :

Because b o t h h u m a n s a n d n o n h u m a n s can suffer, we have the A t H a r v a r d U n i v e r s i t y R. S o l o m o n , L . K a m i n , a n d L . W y n n e


tested the effects o f electric shock o n the b e h a v i o r o f dogs.
s a m e r e a s o n f o r n o t m i s t r e a d n g b o t h . I f a h u m a n is t o r m e n t e d ,
T h e y p l a c e d f o r t y dogs i n a device c a l l e d a " s h u t d e b o x "
w h y is i t w r o n g ? B e c a u s e she s u f f e r s . S i m i l a r l y , i f a n o n h u m a n is
w h i c h consists o f a b o x d i v i d e d i n t o t w o c o m p a r t m e n t s , sep-
t o r m e n t e d , s h e a l s o s u f f e r s , a n d so i t is e q u a l l y w r o n g f o r t h e
arated by a barrier. I n i t i a l l y the b a r r i e r was set at the h e i g h t
s a m e r e a s o n . T o B e n t h a m a n d M i l l , t h i s l i n e o f r e a s o n i n g was o f the dog's back. H u n d r e d s o f intense electric shocks were
conclusive. H u m a n s a n d n o n h u n r a n s are e q u a l l y e n t i t l e d to d e l i v e r e d to the d o g s ' feet t h r o u g h a g r i d f l o o r . A t first the
moral concern. dogs c o u l d escape t h e s h o c k i f they l e a r n e d to j u m p the bar-
H o w e v e r , t h i s v i e w m a y s e e m as e x t r e m e , i n t h e o p p o s i t e r i e r i n t o the o t h e r c o m p a r t m e n t . I n a n a t t e m p t to "dis-
d i r e c t i o n , as t h e t r a d i t i o n a l v i e w t h a t g i v e s a n i m a l s n o i n d e p e n - c o u r a g e " o n e d o g f r o m j u m p i n g , the e x p e r i m e n t e r s f o r c e d
d e n t m o r a l s t a n d i n g at a l l . A r e a n i m a l s r e a l l y t o b e r e g a r d e d as the d o g to j u m p into shock 100 times. T h e y said t h a t as the
100 T H E ELEMENTS OF MORAL PHILOSOPHY T H E UTILITARIAN APPROACH 101

d o g j u m p e d he gave a "sharp a n t i c i p a t o r y y i p w h i c h t u r n e d i n g c o u l d b e f u r t h e r f r o m t h e t r u t h . V e a l calves, f o r e x a m p l e ,


i n t o a yelp when he l a n d e d o n the e l e c t r i f i e d g r i d . " T h e y s p e j i d t h e i r lives i n pens t o o s i n a l l t o a l l o w t h e m t o t u r n a r o u n d
t h e n b l o c k e d the passage between the c o m p a r t m e n t s w i t h o r even to lie d o w n c o m f o r t a b l y — b u t f r o m t h e p r o d u c e r s '
a piece o f plate glass a n d tested the same d o g again. T h e p o i n t o f v i e w , t h a t is g o o d , b e c a u s e e x e r c i s e t o u g h e n s t h e m u s -
d o g " j u m p e d f o r w a r d a n d smashed his head against the cles, w h i c h r e d u c e s t h e " q u a h t y " o f t h e m e a t ; a n d b e s i d e s , a l -
glass." I n i t i a l l y dogs showed symptoms such as "defecation,
l o w i n g t h e a n i m a l s a d e q u a t e l i v i n g space w o u l d b e p r o h i b i t i v e l y
u r i n a t i o n , y e l p i n g a n d s h r i e k i n g , t r e m b l i n g , a t t a c k i n g the
e x p e n s i v e . I n these pens t h e calves c a n n o t p e r f o r m s u c h basic
apparatus" a n d so o n , b u t after ten o r twelve days o f trials
a c t i o n s as g r o o m i n g t h e m s e l v e s , w h i c h t h e y n a t u r a l l y d e s i r e t o
dogs t h a t were p r e v e n t e d f r o m escaping shock ceased to re-
d o , b e c a u s e t h e r e is n o t r o o m f o r t h e m t o t w i s t t h e i r h e a d s
sist. T h e e.vperimenters r e p o r t e d themselves "impressed"
by this, a n d c o n c l u d e d that a c o m b i n a t i o n o f the plate gla,ss a r o u n d . I t is c l e a r t h a t t h e c a l v e s m i s s t h e i r i x i o t h e r s , a n d l i k e
b a r r i e r a n d f o o t shock were "very effective" i n e l i m i n a t i n g h u m a n i n f a n t s they w a n t s o m e t h i n g to suck: T h e y c a n be seen
j u m p i n g by dogs. t r ) i n g v a i n l y t o s u c k t h e sides o f t h e i r stalls. I n o r d e r t o k e e p
t h e i r m e a t p a l e a n d tasty, t h e y a r e f e d a l i q u i d d i e t d e f i c i e n t i n
T h e u t i l i t a r i a n a r g u m e n t is s i m p l e e n o u g h . W e s h o u l d j u d g e ac- b o t h i r o n a n d roughage. Naturally they develop cravings f o r
t i o n s r i g h t o r w r o n g d e p e n d i n g o n w h e t h e r t h e y cause m o r e t h e s e t h i n g s . T h e c a l f ' s c r a v i n g f o r i r o n b e c o m e s so s t r o n g t h a t
h a p p i n e s s o r u n h a p p i n e s s . T h e d o g s i n this e x p e r i m e n t are ob- i f a l l o w e d t o t u r n a r o u n d , i t w i l l l i c k a t its o w n u r i n e , a l t h o u g h
v i o u s l y b e i n g c a u s e d t e r r i b l e s u f f e r i n g . Is t h e r e a n y c o m p e n s a t - calves n o r m a l l y find t h i s r e p u g n a n t . T h e d n y s t a l l , w h i c h p r e -
i n g g a i n i n h a p p i n e s s e l s e w h e r e t h a t j u s t i f i e s it? Is g r e a t e r u n - vents t h e a n i m a l f r o m t u r n i n g , solves this " p r o b l e m . " T h e crav-
happiness b e i n g prevented, for other animals or f o r humans? I f i n g f o r r o u g h a g e is e s p e c i a l l y s t r o n g , s i n c e w i t h o u t i t t h e a n i m a l
n o t , t h e e x p e r i m e n t is n o t m o r a l l y a c c e p t a b l e . c a n n o t f o r m a c u d to chew. I t c a n n o t be g i v e n a n y straw f o r b e d -
d i n g , since t h e a n i m a l w o u l d be d r i v e n to eat i t , a n d t h a t w o u l d
W e m a y n o t e t h a t t h i s style o f a r g u m e n t d o e s n o t i m p l y t h a t
a f f e c t t h e m e a t . So f o r t h e s e a n i m a l s , t h e s l a u g h t e r h o u s e is n o t
all s t i c h e x p e r i m e n t s a r e i m m o r a l — i t s u g g e s t s j u d g i n g e a c h o n e
an u n p l e a s a n t e n d to a n o t h e r w i s e c o n t e n t e d existence. As ter-
i n d i v i d u a l l y , o n its o w n m e r i t s . T h e e x p e r i m e n t w i t h t h e d o g s ,
r i f y i n g as t h e p r o c e s s o f s l a u g h t e r is, f o r t h e m i t m a y a c t u a l l y b e
f o r e x a m p l e , was p a r t o f a s t u d y o f " l e a r n e d h e l p l e s s n e s s , " a
a m e r c i f u l release.
t o p i c t h a t p s y c h o l o g i s t s r e g a r d as v e i y i m p o r t a n t . P s y c h o l o g i s t s
say t h a t finding o u t a b o u t l e a r n e d h e l p l e s s n e s s w i l l l e a d t o l o n g - O n c e a g a i n , g i v e n t h e s e f a c t s , t h e u t i l i t a r i a n a r g u m e n t is
t e r m benefits f o r the m e n t a l l y i l l . T h e u t i l i t a r i a n p r i n c i p l e does s i m p l e e n o u g h . T h e s y s t e m o f m e a t p r o d u c t i o n causes g r e a t s u f -
n o t , b y Itself, t e l l us w h a t t i r e t r u t h is a b o u t p a r t i c u l a r e x p e r i - f e r i n g f o r t h e a n i m a l s . B e c a u s e w e d o n o t n e e d to eat t h e m —
m e n t s ; b u t i t d o e s i n s i s t t h a t t h e h a r m d o n e t o t h e a n i m a l s re- v e g e t a r i a n m e a l s a r e a l s o tasty a n d n o u r i s h i n g — t h e g o o d t h a t is
quires justification. We c a n n o t s i m p l y assume, because they are d o n e d o e s n o t , o n b a l a n c e , o u t w e i g h t h e e v i l . T h e r e f o r e , i t is
n o t h u m a n , t h a t a n y t h i n g goes. w r o n g . S i n g e r c o n c l u d e s t h a t we s h o u l d b e c o m e v e g e t a r i a n s .
B u t c r i t i c i z i n g s u c h e x p e r i m e n t s is t o o easy f o r m o s t o f us. W h a t is m o s t r e v o l u t i o n a r y i n a l l t h i s is s i m p l y t h e i d e a t h a t
Because we d o n o t d o such research, we m a y feel s u p e r i o r o r t h e i n t e r e s t s o f n o n h u m a n a n i m a l s count. W e n o r m a l l y a s s u m e ,
s e l f - r i g h t e o u s . S i n g e r p o i n t s o u t , h o w e v e r , t h a t n o n e o f us is f r e e as t h e d o m i n a n t t r a d i t i o n o f o u r s o c i e t y t e a c h e s , t h a t h u m a n b e -
o f b l a m e i n t h i s a r e a . W e a r e a l l i n v o l v e d i n c r u e l t y j u s t as s e r i - ings alone are w o r t h y o f m o r a l c o n s i d e r a d o n . U d l i t a r i a n i s m
o u s as t h a t p e r p e t r a t e d i n a n y l a b o r a t o r y , b e c a u s e w e a l l ( o r , a t c h a l l e n g e s t h a t basic a s s u m p t i o n a n d insists t h a t t h e m o r a l c o m -
least m o s t o f us) e a t m e a t . T h e f a c t s a b o u t m e a t p r o d u c t i o n a r e m u n i t ) ' m u s t be e x p a n d e d to i n c l u d e a l l creatures w h o s e i n t e r -
at least as h a r r o w i n g as t h e f a c t s a b o u t a n i n r a l e x p e r i m e n t a t i o n . ests a r e a f f e c t e d b y w h a t w e d o . H u m a n b e i n g s a r e i n m a n y ways
M o s t p e o p l e b e l i e v e , i n a v a g u e way, t h a t w h i l e t h e s l a u g h - special; a n d a n adequate m o r a l i t y m u s t a c k n o w l e d g e that. B u t
terhouse m a y be a n u n p l e a s a n t place, a n i m a l s raised f o r f o o d i t is a l s o t r u e t h a t w e a r e o n l y o n e s p e c i e s a m o n g m a n y i n h a b i t -
are o t h e r w i s e t r e a t e d w e l l e n o u g h . B u t , S i n g e r p o i n t s o u t , n o t h - i n g t h i s p l a n e t ; a n d m o r a l i t y m u s t a c k n o w l e d g e t h a t as w e l l .
T H E DEBATE OVER UTILITARIANISM 103

m e r o u s , a n d so p e r s u a s i v e , t h a t m a n y h a v e c o n c l u d e d t h e t h e -

CHAPTER 8 o r y i n u s t b e a b a n d o n e d . B u t t h e r e m a r k a b l e t h i n g is t h a t so
m a n y have n o t a b a n d o n e d it. Despite the arguments, a great
m a n y t h i n k e r s refuse to l e t t h e t h e o r y g o . A c c o r d i n g t o these
c o n t e m p o r a r y utilitarians, the a n t i u t i l i t a r i a n arguments only

"J^he Debate over Utilitarianism s h o w t h a t t h e c l a s s i c a l t h e o r y n e e d s t o b e i m p r o v e d ; t h e y say t h e


basic i d e a is s o u n d a n d s h o u l d b e p r e s e r v e d , b u t r e c a s t i n t o a
m o r e satisfactory f o r m .
I n w h a t f o l l o w s , we w i l l e x a i u i n e s o m e o f these a r g u m e n t s
T h e u t i l i t a r i a n d o c t r i n e is that happiness is desirable, a n d the only
a g a i n s t U d l i t a r i a n i s m a n d c o n s i d e r w h e t h e r t h e c l a s s i c a l ver-
t h i n g desirable, as an e n d ; all o t h e r things b e i n g desirable as means
s i o n o f t h e t h e o r y m a y be r e v i s e d s a d s f a c t o r i l y t o m e e t t h e m .
to that e n d .
These a r g u m e n t s are o f interest n o t o n l y f o r the assessment o f
J O H N S T U A R T M I L L , UTIUTAHIANJSM (1861)
U d l i t a r i a n i s m b u t f o r t h e i r o w n sakes, as t h e y r a i s e s o m e f u n d a -
M a n does n o t strive after happiness; o n l y the E n g l i s h m a n does that. m e n t a l issues o f m o r a l p h i l o s o p h y .
FRIEDRTCH NIETZSCHE, TwrucHr OF THE IDOLS (1889)

8.2. Is Happiness the Only Thing That Matters?


T h e q u e s t i o n What things are good? is d i f f e r e n t f r o m t h e q u e s t i o n
8.1. The Classical Version of the Theory What actions are right"? a n d U t i l i t a r i a n i s m a n s w e r s t h e s e c o n d
q u e s t i o n b y r e f e r r i n g b a c k t o t h e f i r s t o n e . R i g h t a c t i o n s , i t says,
Classical U t i l i t a r i a n i s m , the t h e o r y o f B e n t h a m a n d M i l l , can be a r e t h e o n e s t h a t p r o d u c e t h e m o s t g o o d . B u t w h a t is g o o d ? T h e
s u m m a r i z e d i n t h r e e p r o p o s i d o n s : F i r s t , a c t i o n s a r e t o be c l a s s i c a l u t i l i t a r i a n r e p l y is: o n e t h i n g , a n d o n e t h i n g o n l y ,
j u d g e d r i g h t o r w r o n g solely by v i r t u e o f t h e i r c o n s e q u e n c e s . n a m e l y h a p p i n e s s . A s M i l l p u t i t , " T h e u t i l i t a r i a n d o c t r i n e is t h a t
N o t h i n g else m a t t e r s . S e c o n d , i n assessing c o n s e q u e n c e s , t h e h a p p i n e s s is d e s i r a b l e , a n d t h e o n l y t h i n g d e s i r a b l e , as a n e n d ;
o n l y t h i n g t h a t m a t t e r s is t h e a m o u n t o f h a p p i n e s s o r u n h a p p i - a l l o t h e r t h i n g s b e i n g d e s i r a b l e as m e a n s t o t h a t e n d . "
ness t h a t is c r e a t e d . E v e r y t h i n g else is i r r e l e v a n t . T h i r d , e a c h T h e i d e a t h a t h a p p i n e s s is t h e o n e u l t i m a t e g o o d ( a n d u n -
person's happiness counts the same. As M i l l p u t it, h a p p i n e s s t h e o n e u l t i m a t e e v i l ) is k n o w n as H e d o n i s m . H e -
d o n i s m is a p e r e n n i a l l y p o p u l a r t h e o r y t h a t g o e s b a c k a t l e a s t
the happiness w h i c h f o r m s the u d l i t a r i a n standard o f w h a t
as f a r as t h e a n c i e n t G r e e k s . I t has always b e e n a t t r a c t i v e be-
is r i g h t i n c o n d u c t , is n o t the agent's o w n happiness, b u t
cause o f its b e a u t i f u l s i m p l i c i t y a n d because i t expresses t h e i n -
t h a t o f all c o n c e r n e d . As between his o w n happiness a n d
t h a t o f others, u t i l i t a r i a n i s m r e q u i r e s h i m to be as stricdy t u i t i v e l y p l a u s i b l e n o t i o n t h a t t h i n g s a r e g o o d o r b a d o n ac-
i m p a r t i a l as a disinterested a n d b e n e v o l e n t spectator c o u n t o f t h e w a y t h e y m a k e us feel. Y e t a l i t d e r e f l e c t i o n r e v e a l s
s e r i o u s flaws i n t h i s t h e o r y . T h e flaws s t a n d o u t w h e n w e c o n -
T h u s , r i g h t actions are those t h a t p r o d u c e the greatest possible sider e x a m p l e s like these:
balance o f happiness over unhappiness, w i t h each person's hap- A promising young pianist's hands are injured in an automobile
p i n e s s c o u n t e d as e q u a l l y i m p o r t a n t . accident so that she can no longer play. W h y is t h i s b a d f o r h e r ? H e -
T h e appeal o f this t h e o i 7 to p h i l o s o p h e r s , economists, a n d d o n i s m w o u l d say i t is b a d b e c a u s e i t causes h e r u n h a p p i n e s s .
o t h e r s w h o t h e o r i z e a b o u t h u m a n d e c i s i o n m a k i n g has b e e n She w i l l f e e l f r u s t r a t e d a n d u p s e t w h e n e v e r she t h i n k s o f w h a t
e n o r m o u s . T h e t h e o r y c o n t i n u e s to b e w i d e l y a c c e p t e d , even m i g h t h a v e b e e n , a n d that is h e r m i s f o r t u n e . B u t t h i s w a y o f ex-
t h o u g h i t has b e e n c h a l l e n g e d by a n u m b e r o f a p p a r e n t l y dev- p l a i n i n g the m i s f o r t u n e seems to get things the w r o n g way
a s t a t i n g a r g u m e n t s . T h e s e a n d u t i l i t a r i a n a r g u m e n t s a r e so n u - a r o u n d . I t is n o t as t h o u g h , b y f e e l i n g u n h a p p y , s h e h a s m a d e
102
104 T H E ELEMENTS OF MORAL PHILOSOPHY T H E DEBATE OVER UTILITAIUANISM 105

an Otherwise n e u t r a l situation i n t o a bad one. O n the contraiy, q u e s d o n a n d saying o n l y that r i g h t a c d o n s are the ones that
h e r u n h a p p i n e s s is a r a t i o n a l r e s p o n s e t o a s i t u a t i o n t h a t is u n - h a v e t h e b e s t r e s u l t s , h o w e v e r t h a t is m e a s u r e d . S t i l l o t h e r s by-
f o r t u n a t e . S h e c o u l d h a v e h a d a c a r e e r as a c o n c e r t p i a n i s t , a n d pass t h e q u e s t i o n i n a n o t h e r way, h o l d i n g o n l y t h a t w e s h o u l d
n o w s h e c a n n o t . T h a t is t h e t r a g e d y . W e c o u l d n o t e l i m i n a t e t h e a c t so as t o m a x i m i z e t h e s a t i s f a c t i o n o f p e o p l e ' s preferences. I t is
tragedy j u s t by g e t t i n g h e r to c h e e r u p . b e y o n d t h e scope o f this b o o k to discuss t h e m e r i t s o r d e m e r i t s
You think someone is your friend, but he ridicules you behind o f these varieties o f U t i l i t a r i a n i s m . I m e n t i o n t h e m o n l y i n or-
your back. N o o n e tells y o u , so y o u n e v e r k n o w . Is t h i s u n f o r t u - d e r t o n o t e t h a t , a l t h o u g h t h e h e d o n i s t i c a s s u m p t i o n o f t h e clas-
n a t e f o r y o u ? H e d o n i s m w o u l d h a v e t o say n o , b e c a u s e y o u a r e s i c a l u t i l i t a r i a n s has l a r g e l y b e e n r e j e c t e d , c o n t e m p o r a r y u t i l i -
n e v e r c a u s e d a n y u n h a p p i n e s s . Y e t w e f e e l t h e r e is s o m e t h i n g t a r i a n s h a v e n o t f o u n d i t d i f f i c u l t t o c a r r y o n . T h e y d o so b y
b a d g o i n g o n . Y o u t h i n k h e is y o u r f r i e n d , a n d y o u a r e " b e i n g u r g i n g t h a t H e d o n i s m was n e v e r a n e c e s s a r y p a r t o f t h e t h e o r y
m a d e a f o o l , " even t h o u g h y o u are u n a w a r e o f i t a n d y o u suffer i n t h e fiist p l a c e .
no unhappiness.
B o t h these e x a m p l e s m a k e the same basic p o i n t . W e value
8.3. Are Consequences All That Matter?
all s o r t s o f t h i n g s , s u c h as a r t i s t i c c r e a t i v i t y a n d f r i e n d s h i p , f o r
t h e i r o w n sakes. I t m a k e s us h a p p y t o h a v e t h e m , b u t o n l y be- T h e i d e a t h a t o n l y c o n s e q u e n c e s m a t t e r is, h o w e v e r , a n e c e s s a r y
cause w e a l r e a d y t h i n k t h e m g o o d . ( W e d o n o t t h i n k t h e m g o o d p a r t o f U t i h t a r i a n i s m . T h e t h e o r y ' s m o s t f u n d a m e n t a l i d e a is
b e c a u s e t h e y m a k e us h a p p y — t h i s is h o w H e d o n i s m "gets t h a t i n o r d e r t o d e t e r m i n e w h e t h e r a n a c t i o n w o u l d b e r i g h t , we
t h i n g s t h e w r o n g w a y a r o u n d . " ) T h e r e f o r e , i t is a m i s f o r t u n e t o s h o u l d l o o k a t what will happen as a result of doing it. I f i t w e r e t o
lose t h e m , i n d e p e n d e n t l y o f w h e t h e r o r n o t t h e loss is a c c o m - t u r n o u t t h a t s o m e o t h e r m a t t e r is a l s o i m p o r t a n t i n d e t e r m i n -
p a n i e d by u n h a p p i n e s s . i n g r i g h t n e s s , t h e n U t i l i t a r i a n i s m w o u l d b e u n d e n n i n e d a t its
I n this way. H e d o n i s m m i s u n d e r s t a n d s t h e n a t u r e o f h a p - very f o u n d a t i o n .
p i n e s s . T l a p p i n e s s is n o t s o m e t h i n g t h a t is r e c o g n i z e d as g o o d S o m e o f the m o s t serious a n t i u t i l i t a r i a n a r g u m e n t s attack
a n d s o u g h t f o r its o w n s a k e , w i t h o t h e r t h i n g s d e s i r e d o n l y as a the t h e o r y at j u s t this p o i n t : T h e y u r g e that various o t h e r c o n -
m e a n s o f b r i n g i n g i t a b o u t . I n s t e a d , h a p p i n e s s is a r e s p o n s e we siderations, i n a d d i t i o n to utility, are i m p o r t a n t i n d e t e r m i n i n g
h a v e t o t h e a t t a i n m e n t o f t h i n g s t h a t w e r e c o g n i z e as g o o d , i n - r i g h t a n d w r o n g . H e r e are three s u c h a r g u m e n t s .
d e p e n d e n d y a n d i n t h e i r o w n r i g h t l W e t h i n k t h a t f r i e n d s h i p is
a g o o d t h i n g , a n d so h a v i n g f r i e n d s m a k e s us h a p p y . T h a t is v e r y J u s t i c e . W r i t i n g i n t h e a c a d e m i c j o u r n a l Inquiry i n 1965, H.J.
d i f f e r e n t f r o m first s e t t i n g o u t a f t e r h a p p i n e s s , t h e n d e c i d i n g M c C l o s k e y asks us t o c o n s i d e r t h e foUovsnng case:
t h a t h a v i n g f r i e n d s m i g h t m a k e us h a p p y , a n d t h e n s e e k i n g
Suppose a u t i l i t a r i a n were visiting an area i n w h i c h t h e r e
f r i e n d s as a m e a n s t o t h i s e n d .
was racial strife, a n d t h a t , d u r i n g his visit, a N e g r o rapes a
F o r this reason, t h e r e are n o t m a n y hedonists a m o n g c o n - w h i t e w o m a n , a n d t h a t race riots o c c u r as a result o f the
temporary philosophers. Those sympathetic to U t i l i t a r i a n i s m c r i m e , w h i t e m o b s , w i t h the c o n n i v a n c e o f the p o l i c e , bash-
h a v e t h e r e f o r e s o u g h t a w a y t o f o r m u l a t e t h e i r v i e w w i t h o u t as- i n g a n d k i l l i n g N e g r o e s , etc. Suppose t o o t h a t o u r u t i l i t a r -
s u m i n g a h e d o n i s t i c a c c o u n t o f g o o d a n d e v i l . S o m e , s u c h as t h e i a n is i n the area o f the c r i m e w h e n i t is c o m m i t t e d such
E n g l i s h p h i l o s o p h e r G . E. M o o r e ( 1 8 7 3 - 1 9 5 8 ) , have t r i e d to t h a t his t e s t i m o n y w o u l d b r i n g a b o u t the c o n v i c t i o n o f a
c o m p i l e s h o r t lists o f t h i n g s t o b e r e g a r d e d as g o o d i n t h e m - p a r t i c u l a r N e g r o . I f he knows t h a t a q u i c k arrest w i l l stop
selves. M o o r e s u g g e s t e d t h a t t h e r e a r e t h r e e o b v i o u s i n t r i n s i c the riots a n d l y n c h i n g s , surely, as a U t i l i t a r i a n , he m u s t c o n -
c l u d e t h a t he has a d u t y to bear false witness i n o r d e r to
goods—pleasure, f r i e n d s h i p , a n d aesthetic e n j o y m e n t — a n d
b r i n g a b o u t the p u n i s h m e n t o f a n i n n o c e n t p e r s o n .
t h a t r i g h t a c t i o n s are those t h a t i n c r e a s e t h e w o r l d ' s s u p p l y o f
these t h i n g s . O t h e r u t i l i t a r i a n s have bypassed t h e q u e s t i o n o f T h i s is a fictitious e x a m p l e , o f c o u r s e , a l t h o u g h i t was o b v i o u s l y
h o w m a n y t h i n g s are g o o d i n themselves, l e a v i n g i t a n o p e n i n s p i r e d by t l i e l y n c h - l a w t h a t p r e v a i l e d a t o n e time i n s o m e
106 T H E E L E M E N T S O F M O R A L PH I L O S O P H Y T H E DEBATE O W R UTILITARIANISM 107

p a r t s o f t h e U n i t e d States. I n a n y case, t h e a r g u m e n t is t h a t i f two o t h e r o f f i c e r s o f t h a t p o l i c e d e p a r t m e n t , a p p e l l e e


s o m e o n e w e r e i n tliis p o s i t i o n , t h e n o n u t i h t a r i a n g r o u n d s he Louis M o r e n o and defendant H e n r y Grote, acting under
s h o u l d b e a r false witness against the i n n o c e n t p e r s o n . T h i s c o l o r o f t h e i r a u t h o r i t y as such, a n d u s i n g p o l i c e p h o t o -
m i g h t have s o m e b a d c o n s e q u e n c e s — t h e i n n o c e n t m a n m i g h t g r a p h i c e q u i p m e n t l o c a t e d at t h e p o l i c e station m a d e a d -
d i t i o n a l p r i n t s o f the p h o t o g r a p h s t a k e n by Story. M o r e n o
be e x e c u t e d — b u t t h e r e w o u l d be e n o u g h g o o d c o n s e c p r e n c e s
a n d C r o t e t h e n c i r c u l a t e d these p r i n t s a m o n g the p e r s o n -
to o u t w e i g h t h e m : T h e riots a n d l y n c h i n g s w o u l d be s t o p p e d .
n e l o f the C h i n o p o l i c e d e p a r t m e n t .
T h e b e s t o u t c o m e w o u l d b e a c h i e v e d b y l y i n g ; t h e r e f o r e , ac-
c o r d i n g t o U t i l i t a r i a n i s m , l y i n g is t h e t h i n g t o d o . B u t , t h e ar- Ms. Y o r k b r o u g h t suit against these officers a n d w o n . H e r legal
g u m e n t c o n u n u e s , i t w o u l d be w r o n g t o b r i n g a b o u t t h e e x e c u - r i g h t s h a d c l e a r l y b e e n v i o l a t e d . B u t w h a t o f t h e morality o f t h e
u o n of an innocent person. Therefore, Utilitarianism, which o f f i c e r s ' b e h a v i o r ? U t i l i t a r i a n i s m says t h a t a c t i o n s a r e d e f e n s i -
i m p l i e s i t w o u l d be r i g h t , m u s t b e i n c o r r e c t . ble if they p r o d u c e a favorable balance o f happiness over u n -
A c c o r d i n g to the critics o f U t i l i t a r i a n i s m , this a r g u m e n t i l - h a p p i n e s s . T h i s suggests t h a t we c o n s i d e r t h e a m o u n t o f u n -
lustrates o n e o f the theory's m o s t serious s h o r t c o m i n g s : n a m e l y , happiness caused to Ms. York a n d c o m p a r e it with the a m o u n t
t h a t i t is i n c o m p a t i b l e w i t h t h e i d e a l o f j u s t i c e . J u s d c e r e q u i r e s o f p l e a s u r e t a k e n i n t h e p h o t o g r a p h s by O f f i c e r Stor}' a n d his
t h a t we t r e a t p e o p l e fairly, a c c o r d i n g t o t h e i r i n d i v i d u a l needs c o h o r t s . I t is a t l e a s t p o s s i b l e t h a t m o r e h a p p i n e s s t h a n u n h a p -
a n d m e r i t s . M c C l o s k e y ' s e x a m p l e i l l u s t r a t e s h o w t h e deiTiands p i n e s s was c a u s e d . I n t h a t case, t h e u t i l i t a r i a n c o n c l u s i o n a p -
of justice a n d the demands o f utility can c o m e into c o n f l i c t p a r e n d y w o u l d be that t h e i r acdons were m o r a l l y all r i g h t . B u t
T h u s , a n e t h i c a l t h e o r y t h a t says u t i l i t y is t h e w h o l e s t o r y c a n n o t t h i s s e e m s t o b e a p e r v e r s e w a y o f t h i n k i n g . VVhy s h o u l d t h e
be r i g h t p l e a s u r e a f f o r d e d S t o r y a n d h i s c o h o r t s m a t t e r a t all? W h y
s h o u l d i t even count? T h e y had no r i g h t to treat Ms. York i n this
R i g h t s . H e r e is a case t h a t is n o t f i c t i t i o u s ; i t is f r o m t h e r e c o r d s way, a n d t h e f a c t t h a t t h e y e n j o y e d d o i n g so h a r d l y .seems a r e l -
of the U.S. C o u r t o f Appeals, N i n t h C i r c u i t ( S o u t h e r n District evant defense.
o f C a l i f o r n i a ) , 1 9 6 3 , i n t h e case o f York v. Story: H e r e is a n ( i m a g i n a r y ) r e l a t e d case. S u p p o s e a P e e p i n g
T o m s p i e d o n M s . Y o r k by p e e r i n g t h r o u g h h e r b e d r o o m w i n -
I n O c t o b e r , 1958, a p p e l l a n t [ M s . A n g e l y n n Y o r k ] went to
dow, a n d secretly t o o k pictures o f h e r undressed. F u r t h e r sup-
the p o h c e d e p a r t m e n t o f C h i n o f o r the purpose o f f i l i n g
pose t h a t h e d i d this w i t h o u t ever b e i n g d e t e c t e d a n d t h a t h e
charges i n c o n n e c t i o n with an assault u p o n her. A p p e l l e e
R o n Story, a n o f f i c e r o f that p o l i c e d e p a r t m e n t , t h e n act- used the p h o t o g r a p h s e n d r e l y f o r his o w n a m u s e m e n t , w i t h o u t
i n g u n d e r c o l o r o f his a u t h o r i t y as such, advised a p p e l l a n t s h o w i n g t h e m to a n y o n e . N o w u n d e r these circumstances, i t
t h a t i t was necessary to take p h o t o g r a p h s o f her. Story t h e n s e e m s c l e a r t h a t t h e o n l y c o n s e q u e n c e o f h i s a c t i o n is a n i n -
t o o k a p p e l l a n t to a r o o m i n the p o l i c e station, l o c k e d the c r e a s e i n h i s o w n h a p p i n e s s . N o o n e e l s e , i n c l u d i n g M s . Y o r k , is
d o o r , a n d d i r e c t e d her to undress, w h i c h she d i d . Story caused a n y u n h a p p i n e s s at a l l . H o w , t h e n , c o u l d U t i l i t a r i a n i s m
t h e n d i r e c t e d a p p e l l a n t to assume various i n d e c e n t posi- d e n y t h a t t h e P e e p i n g T o m ' s a c t i o n s a r e r i g h t ? B u t i t is e v i d e n t
tions, a n d p h o t o g r a p h e d h e r i n those positions. These t o m o r a l c o m m o n sense t h a t t h e y a r e n o t r i g h t . T h u s , U t i l i t a r i -
p h o t o g r a p h s were n o t m a d e f o r any l a w f u l p u r p o s e . a n i s m a p p e a r s to be u n a c c e p t a b l e .
A p p e l l a n t objected to u n d r e s s i n g . She stated to Story
T h e m o r a l t o b e d r a w n f r o m t h i s a r g u m e n t is t h a t U t i l i t a r -
t h a t t h e r e was no n e e d to take p h o t o g r a p h s o f her in the
i a n i s m is a t o d d s w i t h t h e i d e a t h a t p e o p l e h a v e rights t h a t m a y
n u d e , o r i n the positions she was d i r e c t e d to take, because
the bruises w o u l d n o t show i n any p h o t o g r a p h . n o t be t r a m p l e d o n m e r e l y because o n e a n t i c i p a t e s g o o d re-
L a t e r t h a t m o n t h , Story advised a p p e l l a n t that the s u l t s . I n t h e s e cases, i t is M s . Y o r k ' s r i g h t t o p r i v a c y t h a t is v i o -
p i c t u r e s d i d n o t c o m e o u t a n d that he h a d destroyed t h e m . l a t e d ; b u t i t w o u l d n o t b e d i f f i c u l t t o t h i n k o f s i m i l a r cases i n
I n s t e a d , Stor)' c i r c u l a t e d these p h o t o g r a p h s a m o n g the w h i c h o t h e r r i g h t s are at issue—the r i g h t to f r e e d o m o f r e l i -
p e r s o n n e l o f the C h i n o police d e p a r t m e n t . I n A p r i l , 1960, g i o n , to f r e e s p e e c h , o r even the r i g h t to life itself. I t m a y
108 T H E ELEMENTS O F MORAL PHILOSOPHY T H E DEBATE OVER UTILITARIANISM 109

h a p p e n t h a t g o o d purposes a r e served, f r o m d m e t o t i m e , b y vi- be a g o o d reason w h y y o u s h o u l d n o w d o h i m a f a v o r T h e fact


o l a d n g these r i g h t s . B u t we d o n o t t h i n k t h a t o u r r i g h t s s h o u l d that you d i d s o m e t h i n g to h u r t s o m e o n e m a y be a reason why
be set a s i d e so easily. T h e n o t i o n o f a p e r s o n a l r i g h t is n o t a u d l - y o u s h o u l d n o w m a k e i t u p t o h e r T h e s e a r e a l l facts a b o u t t h e
i t a r i a n n o d o n . Q u i t e t h e o p p o s i t e : I t is a n o d o n t h a t p l a c e s l i m - past t h a t are r e l e v a n t t o d e t e r m i n i n g o u r o b l i g a t i o n s . B u t U t i l i -
its o n h o w a n i n d i v i d u a l m a y b e t r e a t e d , r e g a r d l e s s o f t h e g o o d t a r i a n i s m m a k e s t h e p a s t i r r e l e v a n t , a n d so i t s e e m s d e f i c i e n t f o r
purposes t h a t m i g h t be a c c o m p l i s h e d . just that reason.

B a c k w a r d - L o o k i n g R e a s o n s . S u p p o s e y o u have p r o m i s e d some-
one you will d o something—say, y o u promised to meet h e r
8.4. Should We Be Equally Concerned
d o w n t o w n this afternoon. B u t w h e n the time comes to go, y o u for Everyone?
don't want to d o it; youneed to d o some work a n d y o u would
T h e final c o m p o n e n t o f u d l i t a r i a n m o r a l i t y is t h e i d e a t h a t w e
r a t h e r stay h o m e . W i a t s h o u l d y o u d o ? S u p p o s e y o u j u d g e t h a t
m u s t t r e a t e a c h p e r s o n ' s w e l f a r e as e q u a l l y i m p o r t a n t — a s M i l l
the udlity o f g e t t i n g y o u r w o r k accomplished slighdy outweighs
p u t i t , t h a t w e m u s t b e "as s t r i c t l y i m p a r t i a l as a d i s i n t e r e s t e d
the i n c o n v e n i e n c e y o u r f r i e n d w o u l d be caused. A p p e a l i n g to
a n d b e n e v o l e n t s p e c t a t o r " T h i s s o u n d s p l a u s i b l e w h e n i t is
t h e u t i l i t a r i a n s t a n d a r d , y o u m i g h t t h e n c o n c l u d e t h a t i t is r i g h t
stated abstractly, b u t i t has t r o u b l e s o m e i m p l i c a t i o n s . O n e
t o stay h o m e . H o w e v e r , t h i s d o e s n o t s e e m c o r r e c t . T h e f a c t t h a t
p r o b l e m is t h a t t h e r e q u i r e m e n t o f " e q u a l c o n c e r n " p l a c e s t o o
y o u p r o m i s e d i m p o s e s a n o b h g a d o n o n y o u t h a t y o u c a n n o t es-
g r e a t a d e m a n d o n u s ; a n o t h e r p r o b l e m is t h a t i t d i s r u p t s o u r
c a p e so easily. O f c o u r s e , i f a g r e a t d e a l was a t s t a k e — i f , f o r e x -
personal relationships.
a m p l e , y o u r m o t h e r h a d j u s t b e e n stricken w i t h a h e a r t attack
and you h a d t o rush h e r to the h o s p i t a l — y o l i w o u l d be j u s t i f i e d
T h e Charge That Utilitarianism I s T o o Demanding. Suppose
i n b r e a k i n g t h e p r o m i s e . B u t a small guin i n u d l i t y c a n n o t o v e r -
y o u a r e o n y o u r way t o t h e t h e a t e r w h e n s o m e o n e p o i n t s o u t
come the o b l i g a d o n imposed by t h e fact that y o u promised.
that the money you are about to spend c o u l d be used to provide
T h u s U t i l i t a r i a n i s m , w h i c h says t h a t c o n s e q u e n c e s a r e t h e o n l y
f o o d f o r starving people o r inoculations f o r third-world chil-
t h i n g s that matter, o n c e again seems t o be m i s t a k e n .
d r e n . Surely, those p e o p l e n e e d f o o d a n d m e d i c i n e m o r e t h a n
T h e r e is a n i m p o r t a n t g e n e r a l l e s s o n t o b e l e a r n e d f r o m y o u n e e d t o see a p l a y . S o y o u f o r g o y o u r e n t e r t a i n m e n t a n d
t h i s a r g u m e n t . W h y is U d l i t a r i a n i s m v u l n e r a b l e t o t h i s s o r t o f g i v e t h e m o n e y t o a c h a r i t a b l e a g e n c y . B u t t h a t is n o t t h e e n d o f
c r i t i c i s m ? I t is b e c a u s e t h e o n l y k i n d s o f c o n s i d e r a d o n s t h a t t h e it. B y t h e same r e a s o n i n g , y o u c a n n o t b u y n e w clothes, a car, a
theoi7 holds relevant to d e t e r m i n i n g the rightness o f acdons computer, o r a camera. Probably y o u should move i n t o a
a r e c o n s i d e r a t i o n s h a v i n g t o d o w i t h t h e f u t u r e . B e c a u s e o f its c h e a p e r a p a r t m e n t . A f t e r a l l , w h a t is m o r e i m p o r t a n t — y o u r
e x c l u s i v e c o n c e r n w i t h c o n s e q u e n c e s . U t i l i t a r i a n i s m h a s us c o n - h a v i n g these l u x u r i e s o r c h i l d r e n h a v i n g food?
f i n e o u r a t t e n t i o n t o w h a t will happen as a r e s u l t o f o u r a c t i o n s . I n fact, f a i t h f u l a d h e r e n c e t o t h e u t i l i t a r i a n s t a n d a r d
However, w e n o r m a l l y t h i n k t h a t c o n s i d e r a d o n s a b o u t t h e past w o u l d r e q u i r e y o u t o give away y o u r r e s o u r c e s u n t i l y o u h a v e
a r e also i m p o r t a n t . (TThe f a c t t h a t y o u p r o m i s e d y o u r f r i e n d t o lowered y o u r o w n standard o f living to the level o f the neediest
m e e t h e r is a f a c t a b o u t t h e p a s t . ) T h e r e f o r e , U d l i t a r i a n i s m people y o u c o u l d help. W e m i g h t a d m i r e people w h od o this,
seems t o be f a u l t y because i t e x c l u d e s b a c k w a r d - l o o k i n g c o n - b u t w e d o n o t r e g a r d t h e m as s i m p l y d o i n g t h e i r d u t y . I n s t e a d ,
siderations. w e r e g a r d t h e m as s a i n d y p e o p l e w h o s e g e n e r o s i t y g o e s beyond
O n c e we u n d e r s t a n d t h i s p o i n t , o t h e r e x a m p l e s o f b a c k w a r d - what duty requires. W e distinguish actions that are m o r a l l y re-
l o o k i n g c o n s i d e r a t i o n s c o m e easily t o m i n d . T h e f a c t t h a t s o m e - q u i r e d f r o m actions t h a t are praiseworthy b u t n o t strictly re-
o n e d i d n o t c o m m i t a c r i m e is a g o o d r e a s o n w h y h e s h o u l d n o t q u i r e d . ( P h i l o s o p h e r s c a l l t h e l a t t e r supererogatory-Actions.) U t i l -
be p u n i s h e d . T h e l a c t t h a t s o m e o n e o n c e d i d y o u a f a v o r m a y i t a r i a n i s m seems t o e l i m i n a t e this d i s t i n c t i o n .
110 T H E E L E M E N T S O F MORAL P H I L O S O P H Y T H E DEBATE OVER UTILITAlilANISM 111

B u t t h e p r o b l e m is n o t m e r e l y t h a t U t i l i t a r i a n i s m w o u l d 8.5. The Defense of Utihtarianism


r e q u i r e us t o g i v e u p m o s t o f o u r m a t e r i a l r e s o u r c e s . E q u a l l y
These a r g u m e n t s a d d u p to a n o v e r w h e l m i n g i n d i c t m e n t o f
i m p o r t a n t , a b i d i n g by U t i l i t a r i a n i s m ' s m a n d a t e s w o u l d m a k e i t
U t i l i t a r i a n i s m . T h e t h e o r y , w h i c h at f i r s t s e e m e d so p r o g r e s s i v e
i m p o s s i b l e f o r us t o c a r r y o n o u r i n d i v i d u a l l i v e s . E a c h o f o u r
a n d c o m m o n s e n s i c a l , n o w s e e m s i n d e f e n s i b l e : I t is a t o d d s w i t h
lives i n c l u d e s p r o j e c t s a n d a c t i v i t i e s t h a t g i v e i t c h a r a c t e r a n d
s u c h f u n d a m e n t a l m o r a l n o t i o n s as j u s t i c e a n d i n d i v i d u a l
m e a n i n g ; t h e s e a r e w h a t m a k e o u r lives w o r t h l i v i n g . B u t a n
rights, a n d i t seems u n a b l e to a c c o u n t f o r the place of b a c k w a r d -
ethic that requires the s u b o r d i n a t i o n o f e v e r y t h i n g to the i m -
l o o k i n g r e a s o n s i n j u s t i f y i n g c o n d u c t I t w o u l d h a v e us a b a n d o n
p a r t i a l p r o m o t i o n o f t h e g e n e r a l w e l f a r e w o t i l d r e q u i r e us t o
o u r o r d i n a r y lives a n d s p o i l t h e p e r s o n a l r e l a t i o n s h i p s t h a t
a b a n d o n those projects a n d activities. Suppose y o u are a cabinet-
m e a n e v e r y t h i n g t o us. N o t s u r p r i s i n g l y , t h e c o m b i n e d w e i g h t
maker, n o t g e t t i n g rich b u t m a k i n g a c o m f o r t a b l e living; you
o f t h e s e a r g u m e n t s has p r o m p t e d m a n y p h i l o s o p h e r s to a b a n -
have t w o c h i l d r e n t h a t y o u l o v e ; a n d o n w e e k e n d s y o u like to
d o n the theory altogether
p e r f o r m w i t h a n a m a t e u r t h e a t e r g r o u p . I n a d d i t i o n y o u are i n -
t e r e s t e d i n h i s t o r y a n d y o u r e a d a l o t . H o w c o u l d t h e r e be a n y - M a n y t h i n k e r s , however, c o n t i n u e to believe that U d l i t a r i -
t h i n g w r o n g w i t h diis? B u t j u d g e d b y t h e u d l i t a r i a n s t a n d a r d , anisiTi, i n s o m e f o r m , is t r u e . I n r e p l y t o t h e a b o v e a r g u m e n t s ,
y o u are l e a d i n g a m o r a l l y u n a c c e p t a b l e life. A f t e r a l l , y o u c o u l d three g e n e r a l defenses have b e e n o f f e r e d .
be d o i n g a l o t m o r e g o o d i f y o u s p e n t y o u r d m e i n o t h e r ways. T h e F i r s t L i n e o f D e f e n s e : F a n c i f u l E x a m p l e s D o n ' t Matter.
T h e f i r s t l i n e o f d e f e n s e is t o a r g u e t h a t t h e a n t i u t i l i t a r i a n ar-
P e r s o n a l R e l a t i o n s h i p s . I n p r a c t i c e , n o n e o f us is w i l l i n g t o guments m a k e unrealistic assumptions about h o w the world
t r e a t a l l p e o p l e as e q u a l s , f o r i t w o u l d r e q u i r e t h a t w e a b a n d o n works. T h e arguments about rights, justice, and backward-
o u r s p e c i a l r e l a t i o n s h i p s w i t h f r i e n d s a n d f a m i l y . W e are a l l l o o k i n g r e a s o n s s h a r e a c o m m o n s t r a t e g ) ' . A case is d e s c r i b e d ,
d e e p l y p a i t i a l w h e r e o u r f r i e n d s a n d f a m i l y are c o n c e r n e d . We a n d t h e n i t is s a i d t h a t f r o m a u t i l i t a r i a n p o i n t o f v i e w a c e r t a i n
love t h e m a n d we g o to g r e a t l e n g t h s t o h e l p t h e m . T o us, t h e y a c t i o n is r e q u i r e d — b e a r i n g f a l s e w i t n e s s , v i o l a t i n g s o m e o n e ' s
are n o t j t i s t m e m b e r s o f t h e g r e a t c r o w d o f h u m a n i t y — t h e y are r i g h t s , o r b r e a k i n g a p r o m i s e . I t is t h e n s a i d t h a t t h e s e t h i n g s a r e
s p e c i a l . B u t a l l t h i s is i n c o n s i s t e n t w i t h i m p a r t i a U t y . W h e n y o u n o t r i g h t . T h e r e f o r e , i t is c o n c l u d e d , t h e u t i l i t a r i a n c o n c e p t i o n
are i m p a r t i a l , intimacy, love, a f f e c t i o n , a n d f r i e n d s h i p fly o u t o f r i g h t n e s s c a n n o t be c o r r e c t .
the window. B u t this strategy succeeds o n l y i f we agree t h a t the actions
T h e fact t h a t U d l i t a r i a n i s m u n d e r m i n e s o u r p e r s o n a l re- d e s c r i b e d really w o u l d have the best consequences. B u t w h y
l a t i o n s h i p s s e e m s t o m a n y c r i t i c s t o b e its s i n g l e g r e a t e s t f a u l t . s h o u l d we a g r e e w i t h that? I n t h e r e a l w o r l d , b e a r i n g false w i t -
I n d e e d , at this p o i n t U d l i t a r i a n i s m seems to have lost all t o u c h ness d o e s n o i h a v e g o o d c o n s e q u e n c e s . S u p p o s e , i n t h e case d e -
w i t h r e a l i t y . W l i a t w o u l d i t be l i k e t o b e n o m o r e c o n c e r n e d f o r s c r i b e d by M c C l o s k e y , the " u t i l i t a r i a n " t r i e d to i n c r i m i n a t e t h e
o n e ' s h u s b a n d o r w i f e t h a n f o r s t r a n g e r s w h o m o n e has n e v e r i n n o c e n t m a n i n order to stop the riots. H e probably w o u l d n o t
m e t ? T h e v e r y i d e a is a b s u r d ; n o t o n l y is i t p r o f o u n d l y c o n t r a r y succeed; his l i e m i g h t be f o u n d o u t , a n d t h e n t h e s i t u a t i o n
to n o r m a l h u m a n e m o t i o n s , b u t the i n s t i t u t i o n o f m a r r i a g e w o u l d be even worse t h a n before. E v e n i f the lie d i d succeed,
c o u l d n o t even exist apart f r o m u n d e r s t a n d i n g s a b o u t special the real c u l p r i t w o u l d r e m a i n at l a r g e , t o c o m m i t a d d i t i o n a l
responsibilities a n d o b l i g a t i o n s . A g a i n , w h a t w o u l d i t be like to crimes. M o r e o v e r , if the guilty party were caught later o n , w h i c h
t r e a t o n e ' s c h i l d r e n w i t h n o g r e a t e r l o v e t h a n o n e has f o r is a l w a y s a p o s s i b i l i t y , t h e l i a r w o u l d b e i n d e e p t r o u b l e , a n d c o n -
s t r a n g e r s ? A s J o h n C o t t i n g h a m p u t s i t , " A p a r e n t w h o leaves h i s f i d e n c e i n t h e c r i m i n a l j u s t i c e s y s t e m w o u l d be u n d e r m i n e d .
c h i l d to b u r n , o n the g r o u n d that the b u i l d i n g contains some- T h e m o r a l is t h a t a l t h o u g h o n e m i g h t think t h a t o n e c a n b r i n g
o n e else w h o s e f u t u r e c o n t r i b u t i o n t o t h e g e n e r a l w e l f a r e a b o u t t h e best c o n s e q u e n c e s by s u c h b e h a v i o r , o n e c a n b y n o
p r o m i s e s t o b e g r e a t e r , is n o t a h e r o ; h e is ( r i g h t l y ) a n o b j e c t o f means be c e r t a i n o f it. I n fact, e x p e r i e n c e teaches the c o n t r a r y :
moral contempt, a moral leper" U t i l i t ) ' is n o t s e r v e d b y f r a m i n g i n n o c e n t p e o p l e .
112 T H E E L E M E N T S O F MOR/VL P H I L O S O P H Y T H E DEBATE OVER UTILITARIANISM 113

T h e s a m e goes f o r t h e o t h e r cases c i t e d i n t h e a n t i u t i l i t a r - o u r c o m m o n s e n s e e v a l u a t i o n s . I n r e v i s i n g a t h e o r y , t h e t r i c k is
ian arguments. V i o l a d n g people's rights, b r e a k i n g one's t o i d e n d f y p r e c i s e l y w h i c h o f its f e a t u r e s is c a u s i n g t h e t r o u b l e
promises, a n d lying all have bad consequences. O n l y i n p h i l o s o - a n d to c h a n g e that, l e a v i n g the rest o f the t h e o r y u n d i s t u r b e d .
p h e r s ' i i n a g i n a t i o n s is i t o t h e r w i s e . I n t h e r e a l w o r l d . P e e p i n g \ V h a t is i t a b o u t t h e c l a s s i c a l v e r s i o n t h a t g e n e r a t e s a l l t h e u n -
T o m s a r e c a u g h t , j u s t as O f f i c e r S t o r y a n d h i s c o h o r t s w e r e w e l c o m e results?
c a u g h t ; a n d their victims suffer. I n the real w o r l d , w h e n p e o p l e T h e t r o u b l e s o m e a s p e c t o f c l a s s i c a l U t i l i t a r i a n i s m , i t was
lie, o t h e r s are h u r t a n d t h e i r o w n r e p u t a t i o n s are d a m a g e d ; a n d s a i d , is its a s s u m p t i o n t h a t each individual action is t o b e e v a l u -
w h e n p e o p l e break t h e i r p r o m i s e s , a n d f a i l to r e t u r n favors, a t e d b y r e f e r e n c e t o t h e P r i n c i p l e o f U t i l i t y I f o n a c e r t a i n oc-
they lose t h e i r f r i e n d s . c a s i o n y o u a r e t e m p t e d t o b e a r f a l s e w i t n e s s , t h e c l a s s i c a l ver-
T h e r e f o r e , far f r o m b e i n g i n c o m p a t i b l e with the idea that s i o n o f t h e t h e o r y says t h a t w h e t h e r i t w o u l d b e w r o n g is
we s h o u l d n o t v i o l a t e p e o p l e ' s r i g h t s , o r l i e , o r b r e a k o u r d e t e r m i n e d b y t h e c o n s e q u e n c e s o f that particular lie; s i m i l a r l y ,
promises, U t i h t a r i a n i s m explains w h y we .should n o t d o those w h e t h e r y o u s h o u l d k e e p a p r o m i s e depends o n the conse-
things. M o r e o v e r , apart f r o m the u t i l i t a r i a n e x p l a n a t i o n , these q u e n c e s o f that particular promise; a n d so o n f o r e a c h o f t h e ex-
duties w o u l d r e m a i n mysterious a n d unintelligible. W h a t could a i n p l e s w e h a v e c o n s i d e r e d . T h i s is t h e a s s u m p t i o n t h a t c a u s e d
be m o r e m y s t e r i o u s t h a n t h e n o t i o n t h a t s o m e a c t i o n s a r e r i g h t a l l t h e t r o u b l e ; i t is w h a t l e a d s t o t h e c o n c l u s i o n t h a t y o u c a n d o
" i n t h e m s e l v e s , " s e v e r e d f r o m a n y n o t i o n o f a g o o d t o be p r o - a n y s o r t o f q u e s t i o n a b l e t h i n g i f i t has t h e b e s t c o n s e q u e n c e s .
d u c e d b y t h e m ? O r w h a t c o u l d be m o r e u n i n t e l l i g i b l e t h a n t h e T h e r e f o r e , the new version o f U t i l i t a r i a n i s m modifies the
idea that p e o p l e have " r i g h t s " u n c o n n e c t e d w i t h any benefits t h e o r y so t h a t i n d i v i d u a l a c d o n s w i l l n o l o n g e r b e j u d g e d b y t h e
d e r i v e d f r o m the a c k n o w l e d g m e n t o f those rights? U t i l i t a r i a n - P r i n c i p l e o f U d l i t y . I n s t e a d , w e first ask w h a t set of rules is o p t i -
i s m is n o t i n c o m p a t i b l e w i t h c o m m o n sense; o n t h e c o n t r a r y . m a l , f r o m a u d l i t a r i a n p o i n t o f view. W h a t rules s h o u l d we p r e -
U t i l i t a r i a n i s m is c o m m o n s e n s i c a l . f e r t o h a v e c u r r e n t i n o u r society, i f t h e p e o p l e i n o u r society are
So t h a t is t h e f i r s t l i n e o f d e f e n s e . H o w e f f e c t i v e is it? U n - to flourish? I n d i v i d u a l acts a r e t h e n j u d g e d r i g h t o r w r o n g
fortunately, i t contains m o r e bluster t h a n substance. W h i l e i t a c c o r d i n g to w h e t h e r t h e y are a c c e p t a b l e o r u n a c c e p t a b l e by
c a n p l a u s i b l y be m a i n t a i n e d t h a t most acts o f false w i t n e s s a n d t h o s e r u l e s . T h i s n e w v e r s i o n o f t h e t h e o r y is c a l l e d Rule-
t h e l i k e h a v e b a d c o n s e q u e n c e s i n t h e r e a l w o r l d , i t c a n n o t rea- Utilitarianism, to d i s t i n g u i s h i t f r o m the o r i g i n a l theory, n o w
s o n a b l y be a s s e r t e d t h a t all s u c h acts h a v e b a d c o n s e q u e n c e s . c o m m o n l y c a l l e d Act-Utilitarianism. R i c h a r d B r a n d t was p e r h a p s
Surely, at least o n c e i n a w h i l e , o n e can b r i n g a b o u t a g o o d re- the m o s t p r o m i n e n t d e f e n d e r o f R u l e - U t i l i t a r i a n i s m ; h e sug-
s u l t b y d o i n g s o m e t h i n g t h a t m o r a l c o m m o n sense c o n d e m n s . gested that " m o r a l l y w r o n g " means that an action
T h e r e f o r e , i n a t l e a s t s o m e r e a l - l i f e cases U t i l i t a r i a n i s m w i l l
w o u l d be p r o h i b i t e d by any m o r a l c o d e w h i c h all f u l l y ra-
c o m e i n t o c o n f l i c t w i t h c o m m o n sense. M o r e o v e r , even i f t h e
t i o n a l persons w o u l d t e n d to s u p p o r t , i n p r e f e r e n c e to a l l
a n d u d l i t a r i a n a r g u m e n t s h a d t o r e l y e x c l u s i v e l y o n f i c d d o u s ex- o t h e r s o r to n o n e at a l l , f o r the society o f the a g e n t , i f they
amples, those arguments w o u l d nevertheless retain their power; e x p e c t e d to s p e n d a l i f e t i m e i n t h a t society.
f o r s h o w i n g t h a t U t i l i t a r i a n i s m has u n a c c e p t a b l e c o n s e q u e n c e s
i n h y p o t h e t i c a l cases is a v a l i d w a y o f p o i n t i n g u p its t h e o r e t i c a l R u l e - U t i l i t a r i a n i s m has n o d i f f i c u l t y c o p i n g w i t h t h e a n t i -
d e f e c t s . T h e first l i n e o f d e f e n s e , t h e n , is w e a k . utilitarian arguments. A n act-utilitarian, faced with the situation
d e s c r i b e d b y M c C l o s k e y , w o u l d be t e m p t e d t o b e a r f a l s e w i t n e s s
T h e S e c o n d L i n e of D e f e n s e : T h e P r i n c i p l e of Utility Is a G u i d e a g a i n s t t h e i n n o c e n t m a n b e c a u s e t h e c o n s e q u e n c e s o f that par-
for C h o o s i n g Rules, N o t Individual Acts. T h e s e c o n d l i n e o f ticular act would be g o o d . B u t t h e r u l e - u d l i t a r i a n w o u l d n o t rea-
d e f e n s e a d m i t s t h a t t h e classical v e r s i o n o f U t i h t a r i a n i s m is i n - s o n i n t h a t way. H e w o u l d f i r s t ask, " W h a t g e n e r a l r u l e s o f c o n -
c o n s i s t e n t w i t h m o r a l c o m m o n sense a n d p r o p o s e s t o save t h e d u c t t e n d t o p r o m o t e t h e g r e a t e s t h a p p i n e s s ? " S u p p o s e we
t h e o r y b y g i v i n g i t a n e w f o r m u l a t i o n w h i c h will be i n l i n e w i t h i m a g i n e t w o societies, o n e i n w h i c h t h e r u l e " D o n ' t b e a r false
114 T H E E L E M E N T S O F MOIiAL P H I L O S O P H Y T H E D E B A T E OVER UTILITARIANISM 115

w i t n e s s a g a i n s t t h e i n n o c e n t " is f a i t h f u l l y a d h e r e d t o , a n d o n e dices a b s o r b e d f r o m o u r parents, o u r r e l i g i o n , a n d t h e g e n e r a l


i n w h i c h t h i s r u l e is n o t f o l l o w e d . I n w h i c h s o c i e t ) ' a r e p e o p l e c u l t u r e . W h y s h o u l d we s i m p l y assume that o u r feelings are al-
l i k e l y t o be b e t t e r off? F r o m t h e p o i n t o f v i e w o f u t i l i t y , t h e f i r s t ways c o r r e c t ? A n d w h y s h o u l d w e r e j e c t a p l a u s i b l e , r a t i o n a l t h e -
s o c i e t y is p r e f e r a b l e . T h e r e f o r e , t h e r u l e a g a i n s t i n c r i m i n a t i n g ory o f ethics s i m p l y because it conflicts w i t h those feelings? Per-
t h e i n n o c e n t s h o u l d be a c c e p t e d , a n d by a p p e a l i n g t o t h i s r u l e , h a p s i t is t h e f e e l i n g s , n o t t h e t h e o r y , t h a t s h o u l d b e d i s c a r d e d .
we c o n c l u d e that the p e r s o n i n McCloskey's e x a m p l e s h o u l d I n h g h t o f this, consider again McCloskey's e x a m p l e o f the
n o t testify against t h e i n n o c e n t m a n . p e r s o n t e m p t e d to b e a r false witness. M c C l o s k e y a r g u e s t h a t it
A n a l o g o u s r e a s o n i n g c a n be u s e d t o e s t a b l i s h r u l e s a g a i n s t w o u l d be w r o n g to have a m a n c o n v i c t e d o f a c r i m e he d i d n o t
\aolating people's rights, b r e a k i n g promises, lying, a n d all the c o m m i t b e c a u s e i t w o u l d be u n j u s t . B u t w a i t : S u c h a j u d g m e n t
rest. R u l e s g o v e r n i n g p e r s o n a l r e l a t i o n s h i p s — r e q u i r i n g l o y a l t y serves that man's i n t e r e s t s w e l l e n o u g h , b u t w h a t o f t h e other m-
t o f r i e n d s , l o v i n g c a r e o f o n e ' s c h i l d r e n , a n d so o n — c a n also b e n o c e n t p e o p l e w h o w i l l be h u r t i f t h e r i o t i n g a n d l y n c h i n g s c o n -
estabhshed i n this m a n n e r W e s h o u l d accept such rules because d n u e ? Surely we m i g h t h o p e t h a t we n e v e r have to face a situa-
f o l l o w i n g t h e m , as a r e g u l a r p r a c t i c e , p r o m o t e s t h e g e n e r a l w e l - d o n l i k e this. A l l the o p t i o n s are t e r r i b l e . B u t i f we m u s t c h o o s e
f a r e . B u t o n c e h a v i n g a p p e a l e d t o t h e P r i n c i p l e o f U t i l i t y t o es- b e t w e e n (a) s e c u r i n g t h e c o n v i c d o n o f o n e i n n o c e n t p e r s o n
t a b l i s h t h e r u l e s , we d o n o t h a v e t o i n v o k e t h e p r i n c i p l e a g a i n t o a n d ( b ) a l l o w i n g t h e d e a t h s o f s e v e r a l i n n o c e n t p e o p l e , is i t so
d e t e r m i n e the rightness o f p a r d c u l a r actions. I n d i v i d u a l actions u n r e a s o n a b l e t o t h i n k t h a t t h e f i r s t o p t i o n , b a d as i t is, is p r e f e r -
a r e j u s t i f i e d s i m p l y by a p p e a l t o t h e a l r e a d y - e s t a b l i s h e d r u l e s . able to the second?
T h u s R u l e - U t i l i t a r i a n i s m c a n n o t be c o n v i c t e d o f s-iolating o u r A n d c o n s i d e r a g a i n t h e o b j e c d o n t h a t U d l i t a r i a n i s m is t o o
m o r a l c o m m o n sense. I n s h i f t i n g e m p h a s i s f r o m t h e j u s t i f i c a d o n o f d e m a n d i n g b e c a u s e i t w o u l d r e q u i r e us t o u s e o u r r e s o u r c e s t o
acts t o t h e j u s d f i c a t i o n o f r u l e s , t h e t h e o r y has b e e n b r o u g h t i n t o feed starving c h i l d r e n rather t h a n go to movies a n d buy cars
line with o u r intuidve j u d g m e n t s to a r e m a r k a b l e degree. a n d c a m e r a s . Is i t u n r e a s o n a b l e t o b e l i e v e t h a t c o n t i n u i n g o u r
a f f l u e n t lives is less i m p o r t a n t t h a n t h o s e c h i l d r e n ?

T h e T h i r d L i n e of Defense: " C o m m o n Sense" Can't Be O n t h i s w a y o f t h i n k i n g , A c t - U t i l i t a r i a n i s m is a p e r f e c d y d e -


T r u s t e d . F i n a l l y , a s m a l l g r o u p o f c o n t e m p o r a r y u t i l i t a r i a n s has fensible d o c t r i n e a n d does n o t n e e d to be m o d i f i e d . R u l e -
U t i l i t a r i a n i s m , b y c o n t r a s t , is a n u n n e c e s s a r i l y w a t e r e d - d o w n v e r -
h a d a very d i f f e r e n t response to the a n d u d l i t a r i a n a r g u m e n t s .
s i o n o f t h e t h e o r y , w h i c h gives r u l e s a g r e a t e r i m p o r t a n c e t h a n
T h o s e a r g u m e n t s p o i n t o u t t h a t t h e c l a s s i c a l t h e o r y is a t o d d s
t h e y m e r i t . T h e r e is a s e r i o u s p r o b l e m w i t h R u l e - U d l i t a r i a n i s m ,
w i t h o r d i n a r y n o d o n s o f j u s t i c e , i n d i v i d u a l r i g h t s , a n d so o n ;
w h i c h c a n b e b r o u g h t o u t i f w e ask w h e t h e r its r u l e s h a v e excep-
a n d t h i s g r o u p r e s p o n d s : "So w h a t ? " I n 1 9 6 1 t h e A u s t r a l i a n
tions. A f t e r t h e r u l e - u t i l i t a r i a n ' s " i d e a l s o c i a l c o d e " has b e e n es-
p h i l o s o p h e r J . J . C. S m a r t p u b l i s h e d a m o n o g r a p h e n d t l e d An
t a b l i s h e d , a r e its r u l e s t o b e f o l l o w e d n o m a t t e r w h a t ? T h e r e w i l l
Outline of a System of Utilitarian Ethics; r e f l e c t i n g o n his p o s i t i o n
i n e v i t a b l y be cases w h e r e a n a c t t h a t is p r o h i b i t e d by t h e c o d e
i n t h a t b o o k , S m a r t said:
w o u l d n e v e r t h e l e s s m a x i m i z e utility, m a y b e e v e n by a c o n s i d e r -
A d m i t t e d l y u t i l i t a r i a n i s m does have consequences w h i c h a b l e a m o u n t . T h e n w h a t is t o b e d o n e ? I f t h e r u l e - u t i l i t a r i a n says
are i n c o m p a t i b l e w i t h the c o m m o n m o r a l consciousness, t h a t i n s u c h cases we m a y v i o l a t e t h e c o d e , i t l o o k s l i k e h e h a s
b u t I t e n d e d to take the view "so m u c h the worse f o r the f a l l e n b a c k i n t o a c t - u t i l i t a r i a n i s m . O n t h e o t h e r h a n d , i f h e says
c o m m o n m o r a l consciousness," T h a t is, 1 was i n c l i n e d to t h a t w e m a y n o t d o t h e " f o r b i d d e n " act, t h e n , as S m a r t p u t s i t ,
reject the c o m m o n m e t h o d o l o g y o f testing general ethical t h e u d l i t a r i a n ' s o r i g i n a l c o n c e r n f o r p r o m o d n g w e l f a r e has b e e n
p r i n c i p l e s by seeing h o w ihey square with o u r feelings i n replaced by a n i r r a t i o n a l " r u l e w o r s h i p . " W l i a t sort o f u t i h t a r i a n
p a r t i c u l a r instances. w o u l d a l l o w t h e sky t o f a l l f o r t h e sake o f a r u l e ?
O u r m o r a l c o m m o n sense is, a f t e r a l l , n o t n e c e s s a r i l y r e l i a b l e . I t A c t - U d l i t a r i a n i s m e n g a g e s i n n o s u c h r u l e - w o r s h i p . I t is,
may incorporate various irrational elements, i n c l u d i n g preju- however, r e c o g n i z e d t o be a r a d i c a l d o c t r i n e t h a t i m p l i e s t h a t
116 T H E ELEMENTS OF MORAL PHILOSOPHY

m a n y o f o u r o r d i n a r y m o r a l f e e l i n g s m a y be m i s t a k e n . I n t h i s r e -
s p e c t , i t d o e s w h a t g o o d p h i l o s o p h y always d o e s — i t challenges
us t o r e t h i n k m a t t e r s t h a t w e h a v e h e r e t o f o r e t a k e n f o r g r a n t e d . CHAPTER
I f we c o n s u l t w h a t S m a r t calls o u r " c o m m o n m o r a l c o n -
sciousness," i t seems t h a t m a n y c o n s i d e r a t i o n s o t h e r t h a n u t i l i t y
a r e m o r a l l y i m p o r t a n t . B u t S m a r t is r i g h t t o w a r n us t h a t " c o m -
m o n sense" c a n n o t be t r u s t e d . T h a t m a y t u r n o u t to be U t i l i t a r -
J^re There Absolute Moral
ianism's greatest c o n t r i b u t i o n . T h e deficiencies o f m o r a l c o m -
m o n sense a r e o b v i o u s , o n c e w e t h i n k f o r o n l y a m o m e n t . M a n y
Rules ?
w h i t e p e o p l e o n c e f e l t t h a t t h e r e is a n i m p o r t a n t d i f f e r e n c e be-
t w e e n w h i t e s a n d b l a c k s , so t h a t t h e i n t e r e s t s o f w h i t e s a r e s o m e -
You m a y n o t d o evil t h a t g o o d may c o m e .
h o w m o r e i n : i p o r t a n t . T r u s d n g t h e " c o m m o n s e n s e " o f t h e i r day,
S T . P A U L , iJirrER TO THE ROMANS {CA. A . D . 5 0 )
they m i g h t have insisted that an a d e q u a t e m o r a l t h e o r y s h o u l d
accommodate this "fact." Today, no one worth l i s t e n i n g to
w o u l d say s u c h a t h i n g , b u t w h o k n o w s h o w m a n y o t h e r i r r a -
tional p r e j u d i c e s a r e s t i l l a p a r t o f o u r m o r a l c o m m o n sense? A t
the end o f h i s classic s t u d y o f r a c e r e l a t i o n s . An Ammican
9.1. Harry Truman and Elizabeth Anscombe
Dilemma (1^44), the Swedish sociologist G u n n a r Myrdal re- H a r r y T r u m a n , t h e 3 3 r d P r e s i d e n t o f t h e U n i t e d S t a t e s , wnW a l -
m i n d s us: ways b e r e m e m b e r e d as t h e m a n w h o m a d e t h e d e c i s i o n t o d r o p
the atomic bombs o n H i r o s h i m a a n d Nagasaki. W l i e n he be-
T h e r e m u s t be still o t h e r countless e r r o r s o f the same sort
c a m e P r e s i d e n t i n 1945, f o l l o w i n g t h e d e a t h o f F r a n k h n D . R o o -
that n o l i v i n g m a n can yet detect, because o f the f o g w i t h i n
sevelt, T r u m a n k n e w n o t h i n g a b o u t t h e d e v e l o p m e n t o f the
w h i c h o u r type o f Western c u l t u r e envelops us. C u l t u r a l i n -
fluences have set u p the a s s u m p t i o n s a b o u t the m i n d , the b o m b ; h e h a d to be filled i n by t h e p r e s i d e n t i a l advisers. T h e A l -
body, a n d the universe w i t h w h i c h we b e g i n ; pose t h e ques- lies w e r e w i n n i n g t h e w a r i n t h e Pacific, t h e y said, b u t a t a t e r r i -
tions we ask; i n l l u e n c e the facts we seek; denermine the i n - ble cost. Plans h a d b e e n p r e p a r e d f o r a n i n v a s i o n o f t h e Japa-
t e r p r e t a t i o n we give these facts; a n d d i r e c t o u r r e a c t i o n to nese h o m e islands, w h i c h would be e v e n bloodier than the
these i n t e r p r e t a t i o n s a n d c o n c l u s i o n s . N o r m a n d y invasion. Using the atomic b o m b o n one or two
Japanese cities, however, m i g h t b r i n g the war to a speedy e n d ,
G o u l d i t be, f o r e x a m p l e , t h a t f u t u r e g e n e r a t i o n s w i l l l o o k b a c k
m a k i n g the invasion unnecessary.
i n d i s g u s t a t t h e w a y a l f l u e n t p e o p l e i n t h e 21st c e n t u r y e n j o y e d
T r u m a n was a t f i r s t r e l u c t a n t t o use t h e n e w w e a p o n . T h e
t h e i r c o m f o r t a b l e lives w h i l e t h i r d - w o r l d c h i l d r e n d i e d o f easily
p r o b l e m was t h a t e a c h b o m b w o u l d o b l i t e r a t e a n e n t i r e c i t y —
p r e v e n t a b l e diseases? O r a t t h e w a y w e s l a u g h t e r e d a n d ate h e l p -
n o t j u s t t h e m i l i t a r y targets, b u t hospitals, schools, a n d c i v i l i a n
less a n i m a l s ? I f so, t h e y m i g h t n o t e t h a t u t i l i t a r i a n p h i l o s o p h e r s
homes. W o m e n , children, old people, and other noncombatants
o f t h e d a y w e r e c r i t i c i z e d as s i m p l e - m i n d e d f o r a d v a n c i n g a
w o u l d be vwped o u t a l o n g w i t h the military personnel. A l t h o u g h
m o r a l theory that straightforwardly c o n d e m n e d such things.
t h e A l l i e s h a d b o m b e d cities b e f o r e , T r u m a n sensed t h a t the n e w
weapon made t h e issue o f n o n c o m b a t a n t s even more acute.
M o r e o v e r , t h e U . S . w a s o n r e c o r d c o n d e m n i n g a t t a c k s o n ci\dl-
i a n targets. I n 1939, b e f o r e t h e U . S . h a d e n t e r e d t h e war, Presi-
dent Roosevelt had sent a message to the governments of
F r a n c e , G e r m a n y , Italy, P o l a n d , a n d E n g l a n d , d e n o u n c i n g t h e

117
1J 8 T H E E L E M E N T S O F MOr<>\:L P H [ L O S O P H Y ARE 1 HE Ui A B S O L U T E M O R A L R U L E S ? 119

b o m b a r d r e i e n t o f c i d e s i n t h e s t r o n g e s t t e r i n s . ¥le h a d c a l l e d i t H a r r y T r u m a n a n d E l i z a b e t h A n s c o m b e crossed paths i n


" i n h u m a n barbarism": 1 9 5 6 w h e n h e was a w a r d e d a n h o n o r a r y d e g r e e b y O x f o r d U n i -
v e r s i t y . T h e d e g r e e was a w a y o f t h a n k i n g T r u m a n f o r A m e r i c a ' s
T h e ruthless b o m b i n g f r o m the air o f civilians . . . w h i c h
has resulted i n the m a i m i n g a n d in the d e a t h o f thousands w a r t i m e h e l p . T h o s e p r o p o s i n g t h e h o n o r t h o u g h t i t w o u l d be
o f defenseless m e n , w o m e n , a n d c h i l d r e n , has sickened the u n c o n t r o v e r s i a l . B u t A n s c o m b e a n d two o t h e r m e m b e r s o f the
hearts o f every civilized m a n a n d w o m a n , a n d has pro- faculty o p p o s e d a w a r d i n g the degree, a n d a l t h o u g h they lost,
f o u n d l y shocked the conscience o f h u m a n i t y . I f resort is they f o r c e d a vote o n w h a t w o u l d otherwise have b e e n a r u b b e r -
h a d to this f o r m o f i n h u m a n barbarism d u r i n g the p e r i o d s t a m p a p p r o v a l . T h e n , w h i l e t h e d e g r e e was b e i n g c o n f e r r e d ,
o f the tragic c o n f l a g r a t i o n w i t h w h i c h the w o r l d is n o w con- A n s c o m b e k n e l t outside the hall, praying.
f r o n t e d , h u n d r e d s o f thousands o f i n n o c e n t h u m a n beings
A n s c o m b e w r o t e a n o t h e r p a m p h l e t , this t i m e e x p l a i n i n g
w h o have n o responsibility f o r , a n d w h o are n o t even re-
t h a t T r u m a n was a m u r d e r e r b e c a u s e h e h a d o r d e r e d t h e b o m b -
m o t e l y p a r t i c i p a t i n g i n , the hosdlities w h i c h have n o w bro-
ken o u t , will lose t h e i r lives. ings o f H i r o s h i m a a n d Nagasaki. O f course, T r u m a n t h o u g h t
the b o m b i n g s were j u s t i f i e d — t h e y h a d s h o r t e n e d the war a n d
W h e n he d e c i d e d to a u t h o r i z e the b o m b i n g s , T r u m a n expressed saved l i v e s . F o r A n s c o m b e , t h i s was n o t g o o d e n o u g h . " F o r m e n
s i m i l a r t h o u g h t s . H e w r o t e i n h i s d i a r y t h a t " I h a v e t o l d t h e Sec. t o c h o o s e t o k i l l t h e i n n o c e n t as a m e a n s t o t h e i r e n d s , " she
o f W a r , M r . S t i m s o n , t o use i t so t h a t m i l i t a r y o b j e c t i v e s a n d sol- w r o t e , "is always m u r d e r " T o t h e a r g u m e n t t h a t t h e b o m b i n g s
diers a n d sailors are the t a r g e t a n d n o t w o m e n a n d c h i l d r e n . . . . saved m o r e lives t h a n t h e y t o o k , she r e t o r t e d : " C o m e n o w . I f y o u
H e a n d I are i n accord. T h e target w i l l be a p u r e l y m i h t a r y o n e . " had to choose b e t w e e n b o i l i n g o n e baby a n d l e t t i n g s o m e
I t is h a r d t o k n o w w h a t t o m a k e o f t h i s , s i n c e T r u m a n k n e w t h e f r i g h t f t d disaster b e f a l l a t h o u s a n d p e o p l e — o r a m i l h o n p e o p l e ,
b o m b s w o u l d d e s t r o y w h o l e a i i i e s . N o n e t h e l e s s , i t is c l e a r t h a t h e i f a t h o u s a n d is n o t e n o u g h — w h a t w o u l d y o u d o ? "
was w o r r i e d a b o u t t h e issue o f n o n c o m b a t a n t s . I t is also c l e a r T h e p o i n t is t h a t , a c c o r d i n g t o A n s c o m b e , thm are some
t h a t h e was s a t i s f i e d h e was d o i n g t h e r i g h t t h i n g . H e t o l d an a i d e things that may not be done, no matter what. I t d o e s n o t ; m a t t e r i f y o u
that, after s i g n i n g the o r d e r , h e "slept l i k e a baby." c o u l d a c c o m p l i s h s o m e g r e a t g o o d by b o i l i n g a baby; i t s i m p l y
E l i z a b e t h A n s c o m b e , w h o d i e d i n 2 0 0 1 a t t h e age o f 8 1 , was m u s t n o t be d o n e . ( C o n s i d e r i n g w h a t h a p p e n e d to the babies
a 2 0 - y e a r - o l d s t u d e n t at O x f o r d U n i v e r s i t y w h e n W o r l d W a r I I i n H i r o s h i m a , " b o i l i n g a b a b y " is n o t so f a r o f f . ) T h a t w e m a y n o t
b e g a n . I n t h a t y e a r she c o - a u t h o r e d a c o n t r o v e r s i a l p a m p h l e t ar- i n t e n t i o n a l l y k i l l i n n o c e n t p e o p l e is o n e i n v i o l a b l e r u l e , b u t
g u i n g t h a t B r i t a i n s h o u l d n o t g o to w a r because i t w o u l d e n d u p t h e r e a r e o t h e r s as w e l l :
fighdng by u n j u s t m e a n s , s u c h as a t t a c k s u p o n c i v i l i a n s . " M i s s
A n s c o m b e , " as she was always k n o w n , d e s p i t e h e r ,50-year m a r - [ I ] t has b e e n characteristic o f [ t h e H e b r e w - C h r i s i i a n ]
e t h i c to teach t h a t t h e r e are c e r t a i n t h i n g s f o r b i d d e n what-
riage a n d h e r seven c h i l d r e n , w o u l d g o o n t o b e c o m e o n e o f t h e
ever consequences t h r e a t e n , such as: c h o o s i n g to kill the i n -
2 0 t h century's m o s t d i s d n g u i s h e d p h i l o s o p h e r s , a n d the great-
n o c e n t f o r any p u r p o s e , however g o o d ; vicarious p u n i s h -
est w o m a n p h i l o s o p h e r i n h i s t o r y .
m e n t ; t r e a c h e r y (by w h i c h 1 m e a n o b t a i n i n g a m a n ' s
M i s s A n s c o m b e was also a C a t h o l i c , a n d h e r r e l i g i o n was c o n f i d e n c e i n a grave m a t t e r by p r o m i s e s o f t r u s t w o r t h y
c e n t r a l to h e r l i f e . H e r e t h i c a l views, especially, r e f l e c t e d t r a d i - f r i e n d s h i p a n d t h e n b e t r a y i n g h i m to his e n e m i e s ) ; i d o l a -
d o n a l C a t h o l i c teachings. I n 1968 she c e l e b r a t e d P o p e Paul VPs t i y ; s o d o m y ; a d u l t e r y ; m a k i n g a false p r o f e s s i o n o f f a i t h .
affirmation o f the church's ban o n contraception a n d wrote a
p a m p h l e t e x p l a i n i n g w h y a r t i f i c i a l b i r t h - c o n t r o l is w r o n g . L a t e O f course, m a n y p h i l o s o p h e r s d o n o t agree; they insist that any
i n h e r l i f e s h e was a r r e s t e d w h i l e p r o t e s d n g o u t s i d e a B r i d s h r u l e m a y be b r o k e n , i f t h e c i r c u m s t a n c e s d e m a n d i t . A n s c o m b e
a b o r t i o n c l i n i c . S h e also a c c e p t e d t h e c h u r c h ' s t e a c h i n g a b o u t says o f t h e m ,
the e t h i c a l c o n d u c t o f war, w h i c h b r o u g h t h e r i n t o c o n f l i c t w i t h I t is n o t i c e a b l e t h a t n o n e o f these p h i l o s o p h e r s displays
Mr Truman. any consciousness t h a t t h e r e is s u c h a n e t h i c , w h i c h he is
120 rriE E L E M E N T S O E MORAL P i l L C SOPHY ARE T H E R E A B S O L U T E MORAL RULES? 121

c o n t r a d i c t i n g : i t is p r e t t y w e l , taken f o r obvious a m o n g K a n t called these " h y p o t h e d c a l i m p e r a t i v e s " because they


t h e m all that a p r o h i b i t i o n such as t h a t o n m u r d e r does t e l l us w h a t t o d o provided that w e h a v e t h e r e l e v a n t d e s i r e s . A
n o t o p e r a t e i n face o f some consequences. B u t o f course p e r s o n w h o d i d n o t w a n t t o i m p r o v e his o r h e r chess w o u l d have
the strictness o f the p r o h i b i t i o n has as its p o i n t t h a t you are no r e a s o n to study Kasparov's games; someone w h o d i d n o t
not to be tempted by fear or hope of consequences. w a n t to go to law s c h o o l w o u l d have n o reason to take the en-
Anscombe a n d h e r h u s b a n d , P e t e r G e a c h , w h o was also a d i s t i n - trance e x a m i n a d o n . Because the b i n d i n g force o f the "ought"
guished philosopher, were l:he 20t;h c e n t u i y ' s f o r e m o s t philo- d e p e n d s o n o u r h a v i n g the relevant desire, we can e s c a p e its
s o p h i c a l c h a m p i o n s o f the d o c t r i n e t h a t m o r a l rules are absolute. force s i m p l y by r e n o u n c i n g the desire. T h u s i f y o u n o longer
w a n t t o g o to law s c h o o l , y o u can escape the o b l i g a d o n to take
the exam.
9.2. The Categorical Imperative M o r a l o b l i g a t i o n s , by contrast, d o n o t d e p e n d o n o u r hav-
T h e i d e a t h a t m o r a l r u l e s h o l d w i t h o u t e x c e p d o n is h a r d t o de- i n g p a r t i c u l a r d e s i r e s . T h e f o r m o f a m o r a l o b l i g a t i o n is n o t "'If
fend. I t is easy e n o u g h to e x p l a i n w h y we should make an you w a n t so-and-so, t h e n y o u o u g h t to d o s u c h - a n d - s u c h . " In-
excepdon t o a r u l e — w e c a n s i m p l y p o i n t o u t t h a t , i n s o m e cir- stead, m o r a l r e q n i r e m e n t s a r e categorical: they have the form,
cumstances, following the rule would have teriible conse- "You o u g h t to d o such-and-such, period." T h e m o r a l r u l e is n o t ,
q u e n c e s . B u t h o w c a n w e e x p l a i n w h y we s h o u l d w o i t m a k e a n ex- f o r e x a m p l e , t h a t y o u o u g h t t o h e l p p e o p l e if you care for t h e m
cepdon to the l u l e , i n such c i r c u m s t a n c e s ? I t is a d a u n t i n g o r if you have some o t h e r purpose that helping t h e m might
a s s i g n m e n t . O n e w a y w o u l d b e t o say t h a t m o r a l r u l e s a r e G o d ' s s e r v e . I n s t e a d , t h e r u l e is t h a t y o u s h o u l d be h e l p f u l t o p e o p l e
i n v i o l a b l e c o m m a n d s . A p a r t f r o m t h a t , w h a t c a n be said? regardless o / y o u r p a r t i c u l a r w a n t s a n d d e s i r e s . T h a t is w h y , u n l i k e
P r i o r to t h e 2 0 t h c e n t u r y , t h e r e was o n e m a j o r philosopher h y p o t h e d c a l " o u g h t s , " m o r a l r e q u i r e m e n t s c a n n o t be escaped
who b e l i e v e d t h a t m o r a l r u l e s a r e al:)S'blute, a n d h e o f f e r e d a fa- simply by saying " B u t I d o n ' t care a b o u t that."
m o u s a r g u m e n t f o r this view. I m m a n u e l fcint ( 1 7 2 4 - 1 8 0 4 ) was H y p o t h e t i c a l " o u g h t s " a r e easy t o u n d e r s t a n d . T h e y merely
o n e o f t h e s e m i n a l f i g u r e s i n m o d e r n t h o u g h t . H e a r g u e d , to r e q u i r e us to a d o p t t h e m e a n s necessary to a c h i e v e t h e e n d s we
t a k e o n e e x a m p l e , t h a t l y i n g is n e v e r r i g h t , n o m a t t e r w h a t t h e seek. C a t e g o r i c a l " o u g h t s , " o n t h e o t h e r h a n d , a r e mysterious.
circumstances. H e d i d n o t appeal to theological considerations; How c a n w e be o b l i g a t e d t o b e h a v e i n a c e r t a i n w a y r e g a r d l e s s
he h e l d , instead, that reason r e q u i r e s that we n e v e r lie. T o see o f t h e e n d s we w i s h to achieve? M u c h o f K a n t ' s m o r a l p h U o s o -
how he r e a c h e d this r e m a r k a b l e c o n c l u s i o n , we w i l l b e g i n w i t h p h y is a n a t t e m p t t o e x p l a i n h o w t h i s is p o s s i b l e .
a b r i e f l o o k at his g e n e r a l t h e o r y o f e t h i c s . K a n t h o l d s t h a t , j u s t as h y p o t h e t i c a l " o u g h t s " a r e p o s s i b l e
Kant observed that the word ought is o f t e n used non- b e c a u s e w e h a v e desires, categorical " o u g h t s " are possible be-
morally. For example, cause w e h a v e reason. Categorical " o u g h t s " are b i n d i n g o n ra-
tional a g e n t s s i m p l y b e c a u s e t h e y a r e r a t i o n a l . H o w c a n t h i s be
1. I f y o u w a n t t o b e c o m e a b e t t e r chess p l a y e r , y o u o u g h t
so? I t is, I ^ n t says, b e c a u s e c a t e g o r i c a l o u g h t s a r e d e r i v e d f r o m
to study the games o f G a r r y K a s p a r o v
a p r i n c i p l e t h a t every r a t i o n a l p e r s o n m u s t accept. H e calls this
2. I f y o u w a n t t o g o t o l a w s c h o o l , y o u o u g h t t o s i g n u p f o r
principle the Categorical I m p e r a t i v e . I n h i s Foundations of the
(he e n t r a n c e examinadon.
Metaphysics of Morals (I'ZS,^), h e e x p r e s s e s t h e C a t e g o r i c a l Im-
M u c h o f o u r c o n d u c t is g o v e r n e d b y s u c h " o u g h t s . " T h e p a t t e r n p e r a t i v e l i k e t h i s : i t is a r u l e w h i c h says.
is: W e h a v e a c e r t a i n d e s i r e ( t o b e c o m e a b e t t e r chess p l a y e r , to
A c t o n l y a c c o r d i n g to t h a t m a x i m by w h i c h y o u c a n at the
go to law s c h o o l ) ; we r e c o g n i z e t h a t a c e r t a i n course o f acdon
same time w i l l t h a t i t s h o u l d b e c o m e a universal law.
w o u l d h e l p us g e t w h a t we w a n t ( s t u d y i n g K a s p a r o v ' s games,
s i g n i n g u p f o r t h e e n t r a n c e e x a m i n a d o n ) ; a n d so w e c o n c l u d e This p r i n c i p l e summarizes a p r o c e d u r e for d e c i d i n g w h e t h e r an
that we s h o u l d f o l l o w the i n d i c a t e d p l a n . act is m o r a l l y p e r m i s s i b l e . W h e n y o u a r e c o n t e m p l a t i n g d o i n g a
122 T H E E L E M E N T S O F MOl^VL PHILOSOPl-t\ ARE T H E R E / V B S O L U T E MOJiAL R U L E S ? 123

p a r t i c u l a r a c t i o n , y o u a r e t o ask w h a t r u l e y o u w o u l d be f o l l o w - o n e s u c h r u l e . O f c o u r s e , this was n o t t h e o n l y a b s o l u t e r u l e


i n g i f y o u were to d o that action. (This will be the " m a x i m " of K a n t d e f e n d e d — h e t h o u g h t t h e r e a r e m a n y o t h e r s ; i n o r a l i t y is
t h e a c t . ) T h e n y o u a r e t o ask w h e t h e r y o u w o u l d b e w i l l i n g f o r f u l l o f t h e m . B u t i t w i l l be u s e f u l t o f o c u s o n t h e r u l e a g a i n s t ly-
t h a t r u l e t o be f o l l o w e d b y e v e r y o n e a l l t h e time. ( T h a t w o u l d i n g as a c o n v e n i e n t e x a m p l e . K a n t d e v o t e d c o n s i d e r a b l e s p a c e
m a k e i t a " u n i v e r s a l l a w " i n t h e r e l e v a n t sense.) I f so, t h e r u l e t o d i s c u s s i n g t h i s r u l e , a n d i t is c l e a r t h a t h e f e l t e s p e c i a l l y
m a y be f o l l o w e d , a n d t h e a c t is p e r m i s s i b l e . H o w e v e r , i f y o u s t r o n g l y a b o u t i t . H e s a i d t h a t l y i n g i n a n y c i r c u m s t a n c e s is " t h e
w o u l d n o t be w i l l i n g f o r e v e r y o n e t o f o l l o w t h e r u l e , t h e n y o u o b l i t e r a t i o n o f o n e ' s d i g n i t y as a h u m a n b e i n g . "
m a y n o t f o l l o w i t , a n d t h e a c t is m o r a l l y i m p e r m i s s i b l e . K a n t o f f e r e d t w o m a i n a r g u m e n t s f o r this view.
fcmt gives s e v e r a l e x a m p l e s t o e x p l a i n h o w t h i s w o r k s . 1 . H i s p r i m a r y r e a s o n f o r t h i n k i n g t h a t l y i n g is always w r o n g
S u p p o s e , h e says, a m a n n e e d s t o b o r r o w m o n e y , a n d h e k n o w s was t h a t t h e p r o h i b i t i o n o f l y i n g f o l l o w s s t r a i g h t a w a y f r o m t h e
t h a t n o o n e w i l l l e n d i t t o h i m u n l e s s h e p r o m i s e s t o repay. B u t C a t e g o r i c a l I m p e r a t i v e . W e c o u l d n o t w i l l t h a t i t be a u n i v e r s a l
h e a l s o k n o w s tha( h e w i l l b e u n a b l e t o r e p a y . H e t h e r e f o r e faces law t h a t w e s h o u l d l i e , b e c a u s e k w o u l d be s e l f - d e f e a t i n g ; p e o p l e
this p r o b l e m : S h o u l d he p r o m i s e to repay the debt, k n o w i n g w o u l d q u i c k l y learn that they c o u l d n o t rely o n w h a t o t h e r peo-
t h a t h e c a n n o t d o so, i n o r d e r t o p e r s u a d e s o m e o n e to m a k e p l e s a i d , a n d so t h e hes w o u l d n o t be b e l i e v e d . S u r e l y t h e r e is
the loan? I f he were to d o that, the " m a x i m o f t h e act" (the r u l e s o m e t h i n g t o t h i s : I n o r d e r f o r hes t o be s u c c e s s f u l , p e o p l e m u s t
he w o u l d be f o l l o w i n g ) w o u l d be: W h e n e v e r y o u n e e d a l o a n , g e n e r a l l y b e h e v e t h a t o t h e r s t e l l t h e t r u t h ; so t h e success o f a h e
p r o m i s e to repay i t , regardless o f w h e t h e r y o u believe you actu- depends o n there n o t being a "universal law" p e r m i t t i n g it.
a l l y c a n r e p a y i t . N o w , c o u l d t h i s m i l b e c o m e a u n i v e r s a l law? T h e r e is, h o w e v e r , a p r o b l e m w i t h t h i s a r g u m e n t , w h i c h
O b v i o u s l y n o t , b e c a u s e i t w o u l d b e s e l f - d e f e a t i n g . O n c e t h i s be- w i l l b e c o m e clear i f we spell o u t l i n t ' s l i n e o f t h o u g h t m o r e
c a m e a universal practice, n o o n e w o u l d any l o n g e r believe f u l l y . S u p p o s e i t was n e c e s s a r y t o l i e t o save s o m e o n e ' s l i f e .
s u c h p r o m i s e s , a n d so n o o n e w o u l d m a k e l o a n s b e c a u s e o f S h o u l d w e d o it? K a n t w o u l d h a v e u s r e a s o n as f o l l o w s :
t h e m . A s f w i n t h i m s e l f p u t s i t , " n o o n e w o u l d b e l i e v e w h a t was (1) We s h o u l d d o o n l y those actions that c o n f o r m to rules
p r o m i s e d t o h i m b u t w o u l d o n l y l a u g h at a n y s u c h a s s e r t i o n as t h a t we c o u l d w i l l t o be a d o p t e d u n i v e r s a l l y .
vain pretense."
(2) I f we w e r e t o l i e , w e w o u l d b e f o l l o w i n g t h e r u l e " I t is
A n o t h e r o f K a n t ' s e x a m p l e s has t o d o w i t h g i v i n g c h a r i t y
permissible to lie."
S u p p o s e , h e says, s o m e o n e r e f u s e s t o h e l p o t h e r s i n n e e d , s a y i n g
t o h i m s e l f , " W h a t c o n c e r n o f m i n e is it? L e t e a c h o n e b e h a p p y (3) T h i s r u l e c o u l d n o t be a d o p t e d u n i v e r s a l l y , b e c a u s e i t
as h e a v e n w i l l s , o r as h e c a n m a k e h i m s e l f , I w i l l n o t take any- w o u l d be s e l f - d e f e a t i n g : p e o p l e w o u l d s t o p b e l i e v i n g
t h i n g f r o m h i m o r e v e n e n v y h i m ; b u t t o his w e l f a r e o r t o h i s as- one another, a n d then it w o u l d d o n o g o o d to he.
sistance i n t i m e o f n e e d I have n o desire to c o n t r i b u t e . " This, (4) Therefore, we should n o t lie.
a g a i n , is a r u l e t h a t o n e c a n n o t w i l l t o be a u n i v e r s a l law. F o r at T h e p r o b l e m w i t h t h i s w a y o f r e a s o n i n g was n i c e l y s u m m a r i z e d
s o m e time i n t h e f u t u r e t h i s m a n w i l l h i m s e l f be i n n e e d o f as- by E l i z a b e t h A n s c o m b e w h e n she w r o t e a b o u t K a n t i n t h e aca-
s i s t a n c e f r o m o t h e r s , a n d h e w o u l d n o t w a n t o t h e r s t o b e so i n - d e m i c j o u r n a l Philosophy '\n 1958:
d i f f e r e n t to h i m .
H i s o w n r i g o r i s d c c o n v i c t i o n s o n the subject o f l y i n g were
so i n t e n s e t h a t it never o c c u r r e d to h i m t h a t a lie c o u l d be
9.3. Absolute Rules and the Duty Not to Lie relevandy d e s c r i b e d as a n y t h i n g b u t j u s t a lie (e.g., as "a he
i n such-and-such c i r c u m s t a n c e s " ) . H i s r u l e a b o u t u n i v e r -
B e i n g a m o r a l a g e n t , t h e n , m e a n s g u i d i n g o n e ' s c o n d u c t by salizable m a x i m s is useless w i t h o u t s t i p u l a t i o n s as to w h a t
"universal l a w s " — m o r a l rules that h o l d , w i t h o u t exception, in shall c o u n t a s a r e l e v a n t d e s c r i p d o n o f a n a c t i o n w i t h a v i e w
all c i r c u m s t a n c e s . K a n t t h o u g h t t h a t t h e r u l e a g a i n s t l y i n g was to c o n s t r u c t i n g a m a x i m a b o u t i t .
124 T H E ELEMENTS O F MORAL PHILOSOPHY ARE T H E R E A B S O L U T E MORAL RULES? 125

I n t h i s r e s p e c t , A n s c o m b e was a m o d e l o f i n t e l l e c t u a l i n t e g r i t y : a l i e , h o w e v e r w e l l i n t e n t i o n e d he m i g h t be, m u s t answer


A l t h o u g h she a g r e e d w i t h K a n t ' s c o n c l u s i o n , s h e was q u i c k to f o r the consequences, h o w e v e r u n f o r e s e e a b l e they were,
p o i n t o u t t h e e r r o r i n h i s r e a s o n i n g . T h e d i f f i c u l t ) ' arises i n step a n d pay the p e n a l t y f o r t h e m . . .
(2) o f the a r g u m e n t . Exactly w h a t r u l e w o u l d y o u be f o l l o w i n g T o be t r u t h f u l ( h o n e s t ) i n all d e l i b e r a d o n s , there-
f o r e , is a sacred a n d absolutely c o m m a n d i n g decree o f rea-
i f y o u l i e d ? T h e c r u c i a l p o i n t is t h a t t h e r e a r e m a n y ways t o f o r -
son, l i m i t e d by n o expediency.
m u l a t e t h e r u l e ; s o m e o f t h e m m i g h t n o t be " u n i v e r s a l i z a b l e " i n
K a n t ' s sense, b u t s o m e w o u l d be. S u p p o s e we said y o u were fol-
l o w i n g t h i s r u l e ( R ) : " I t is p e n u i s s i b l e t o l i e w h e n d o i n g so This a r g u m e n t m a y be stated i n a m o r e g e n e r a l f o r m : W e are
w o u l d save s o m e o n e ' s l i f e . " W e c o u l d w i l l t h a t ( R ) b e m a d e a tempted to inake exceptions to the rule against lying because i n
"universal law," a n d i t w o u l d n o t be self-defeating. s o m e cases w e t h i n k t h e c o n s e q u e n c e s o f t r u t h f u l n e s s w o u l d b e
2. M a n y o f K a n t ' s c o n t e m p o r a r i e s t h o u g h t t h a t his insis- bad a n d t h e c o n s e q u e n c e s o f l y i n g g o o d . However, we c a n n e v e r
t e n c e o n a b s o l u t e r u l e s was s t r a n g e , a n d t h e y s a i d so. O n e re- be c e r t a i n a b o u t w h a t t h e c o n s e q u e n c e s o f o u r a c d o n s w i l l b e —
v i e w e r c h a l l e n g e d h i m w i t h this e x a m p l e : I m a g i n e t h a t some- we c a n n o t know t h a t g o o d r e s u l t s w i l l f o l l o w . T h e r e s u l t s o f l y i n g
o n e is fieeing f r o m a m u r d e r e r a n d t e l l s y o u h e is g o i n g h o m e m i g h t b e u n e x p e c t e d l y b a d . T h e r e f o r e , t h e b e s t p o l i c y is t o
t o h i d e . T h e n t h e m u r d e r e r c o m e s , p l a y i n g i n n o c e n t , a n d asks a v o i d t h e k n o w n e v i l , l y i n g , a n d l e t t h e c o n s e q u e n c e s c o m e as
w h e r e t h e first m a n w e n t . Y o u b e l i e v e t h a t i f y o u t e l l t h e t r u t h , they w i l l . E v e n i f t h e c o n s e q u e n c e s a r e b a d , t h e y w i l l n o t b e o u r
t h e m u r d e r e r w i l l find t h e m a n a n d k i l l h i m . F u r t h e r m o r e , fault, f o r we will have d o n e o u r d u t y .
s u p p o s e t h e m u r d e r e r is a l r e a d y h e a d e d i n t h e r i g h t d i r e c U o n , A s i m i l a r a r g u m e n t , we m a y n o t e , w o u l d a p p l y t o T r u m a n ' s
a n d y o u b e l i e v e t h a t i f y o u s i m p l y r e m a i ^ s i l e n t , h e w i l l find decision to d r o p the a t o m i c b o m b s o n H i r o s h i m a a n d Nagasaki.
t h e m a n a n d k i l l h i i u . W h a t s h o u l d y o u d o ? W e m i g h t c a l l this T h e b o m b s w e r e d r o p p e d i n t h e h o p e t h a t t h e war c o u l d be
t h e Case o f t h e I n q u i r i n g M u r d e r e r I n t h i s case, m o s t o f us swifdy c o n c l u d e d . B u t T r u m a n d i d n o t k n o w f o r s u r e t h a t t h i s
w o u l d t h i n k i t is o b v i o u s t h a t w e s h o u l d l i e . M t e r a l l , we m i g h t would h a p p e n . T h e Japanese m i g h t have h u n k e r e d d o w n a n d
say, w h i c h is m o r e i m p o r t a n t , t e l l i n g t h e t r u t h o r s a v i n g some- the i n v a s i o n m i g h t s t i l l h a v e b e e n n e c e s s a r y . So, T r u i n a n was
one's life? b e t t i n g h u n d r e d s o f t h o u s a n d s o f lives o n t h e m e r e h o p e t h a t
K a n t r e s p o n d e d i n a n essay w i t h t h e c h a r m i n g l y o l d - good results m i g h t ensue.
fashioned title " O n a S u p p o s e d R i g h t to Lie f r o m Altruistic Mo- T h e p r o b l e m s w i t h this a r g u m e n t are o b v i o u s e n o u g h — s o
t i v e s , " i n w h i c h h e discusses t h e I n q u i r i n g M u r d e r e r a n d gives a o b v i o u s , i n f a c t , t h a t i t is s u r p r i s i n g a p h i l o s o p h e r o f K a n t ' s
s e c o n d a r g u m e n t f o r his view a b o u t l y i n g . H e writes: stature was n o t m o r e s e n s i d v e t o t h e m . I n t h e first p l a c e , t h e ar-
gument d e p e n d s o n an unreasonably pessimistic view o f w h a t we
A f t e r y o u have honesdy answered the m u r d e r e r ' s quesdon can k n o w . S o m e t i m e s w e c a n b e q u i t e c o n f i d e n t o f w h a t t h e c o n -
as to w h e t h e r his i n t e n d e d v i c d m is at h o m e , i t may be that sequences o f o u r a c d o n s w i l l b e , i n w h i c h case w e n e e d n o t h e s -
he has s l i p p e d o u t so t h a t he does n o t c o m e i n the way o f itate b e c a u s e o f u n c e r t a i n t y . M o r e o v e r — a n d t h i s is a m o r e i n -
the m u r d e r e r , a n d thus t h e m u r d e r may n o t be c o m m i t t e d . teresdng matter, f r o m a p h i l o s o p h i c a l p o i n t o f v i e w — K a n t seems
B u t i f y o u h a d l i e d and said he was n o t at h o m e w h e n he
to assume t h a t a l t h o u g h w e w o u l d b e m o r a l l y r e s p o n s i b l e f o r a n y
h a d really gone o u t w i t h o u t y o u r k n o w i n g i t , a n d i f the
b a d c o n s e q u e n c e s o f l y i n g , we w o u l d n o t b e s i m i l a r l y r e s p o n s i -
m u r d e r e r had then m e t h i m as he w e r u away a n d m u r -
ble f o r a n y b a d c o n s e q u e n c e s o f t e l h n g t h e t r u t h . S u p p o s e , as a
d e r e d h i m , you m i g h t j u s t l y be accused as the cause o f his
d e a t h . For i f y o u h a d t o l d the t r u t h as far as y o u k n e w it, result o f o u r t e l l i n g t h e t r u t h , t h e m u r d e r e r f o u n d h i s v i c t i m a n d
perhaps the m u r d e r e r m i g h t have b e e n a p p r e h e n d e d by k i l l e d h i m . K a n t s e e m s t o a s s u m e t h a t we w o u l d be b l a m e l e s s .
the n e i g h b o r s w h i l e he searched the house a n d thus the B u t c a n w e e s c a p e r e s p o n s i b i h t y so easily? A f t e r a l l , we a i d e d t h e
deed m i g h t have been p r e v e n t e d . T h e r e f o r e , whoever tells m u r d e r e r T h i s a r g u m e n t , t h e n , is n o t v e i y c o n v i n c i n g .
126 T H E ELEMENTS O F MORAL PHILOSOPHY ARE T H E R E ABSOLUTE MORAL RULES? 127

9.4. Conflicts between Rules b o u n d , w h o was o n b o a r d , a n d so f o r t h . T h e f i s h e r m e n w o u l d


l i e a n d be a l l o w e d t o pass. N o w i t is c l e a r t h a t t h e f i s h e r m e n h a d
T h e idea that m o r a l rules are absolute, a l l o w i n g n o exceptions, o n l y two alternatives, to lie or to allow t h e i r passengers ( a n d
is i m p l a u s i b l e i n l i g h t o f s u c h cases as t h e Case o f t h e I n q u i r i n g t h e m s e l v e s ) t o b e t a k e n a n d k i l l e d . N o t h i r d a l t e r n a t i v e was
M u r d e r e r , a n d Kant's a r g u m e n t s f o r it are unsatisfactory. B u t available; they c o u l d n o t , f o r e x a m p l e , r e m a i n silent o r o u t r u n
a r e t h e r e a n y c o n v i n c i n g a r g u m e n t s against the i d e a , a p a r t f r o m the Nazis.
its b e i n g i m p l a u s i b l e ? N o w s u p p o s e t h e t w o r u l e s " I t is w r o n g t o l i e " a n d " I t is
T h e p r i n c i p a l a r g u m e n t a g a i n s t a b s o l u t e m o r a l r u l e s has t o w r o n g to facilitate the m u r d e r o f i n n o c e n t p e o p l e " are b o t h
d o w i t h t h e p c s s i b i l i t y o f c o n f l i c t cases. S u p p o s e i t is h e l d t o b e t a k e n t o be a b s o l u t e . T h e D u t c h f i s h e r m e n w o u l d h a v e t o d o
a b s o l u t e l y w r o n g t o d o A i n a n y c i r c u m s t a n c e s a n d also w r o n g t o o n e o f these t h i n g s ; t h e r e f o r e , a m o r a l view t h a t absolutely p r o -
d o B i n a n y c i r c u m s t a n c e s . T h e n w h a t a b o u t t h e case i n w h i c h a h i b i t s b o t h is i n c o h e r e n t . O f c o u r s e t h i s d i f f i c u l t y c o u l d b e
p e r s o n is f a c e d w i t h t h e c h o i c e b e t w e e n d o i n g A a n d d o i n g B , a v o i d e d i f o n e h o l d s t h a t a t l e a s t o n e o f t h e s e r u l e s is n o t a b -
w h e n h e m u s t d o s o m e t h i n g a n d t h e r e are n o o t h e r a l t e r n a t i v e s s o l u t e . B u t i t is d o u b t f u l t h a t t h i s w a y o u t w i l l b e a v a i l a b l e e v e r y
available? T h i s k i n d o f c o n f l i c t case s e e m s t o s h o w t h a t i t is l o g i - d m e t h e r e is a c o n f l i c t . I t is a l s o h a r d t o u n d e r s t a n d , a t t h e m o s t
cally u n t e n a b l e t o h o l d t h a t m o r a l r u l e s a r e a b s o l u t e . basic level, w h y s o m e s e r i o u s m o r a l r u l e s s h o u l d be absolute, i f
Is t h e r e a n y way t h a t t h i s o b j e c d o n c a n be m e t ? O n e w a y o t h e r s are n o t .
w o u l d be t o d e n y t h a t s u c h cases e v e r a c t u a l l y o c c u r P e t e r
G e a c h t o o k j u s t t h i s view, a p p e a l i n g t o G o d ' s p r o v i d e n c e . W e
c a n d e s c r i b e f i c d t i o u s cases i n w h i c h t h e r e is n o w a y t o a v o i d v i - 9.5. Another Look at Kant's Basic Idea
o l a d n g o n e o f t h e a b s o l u t e r u l e s , h e s a i d , b u t G o d w i l l n o t per- I n h i s b o o k A Short History of Ethics ( 1 9 6 6 ) , A l a s d a i r M a c l n t y r e
m i t s u c h c i r c u m s t a n c e s t o e x i s t i n t h e r e a l w o r l d . I n his b o o k r e m a r k s t h a t " F o r m a n y w h o have n e v e r h e a r d o f p h i l o s o p h y , let
God and the Soul ( 1 9 6 9 ) G e a c h w r i t e s : a l o n e o f K a n t , m o r a l i t y is r o u g h l y w h a t K a n t s a i d i t w a s " — t h a t
is, a s y s t e m o f r u l e s t h a t o n e m u s t f o l l o w f r o m a s e n s e o f d u t y ,
" B u t suppose circumstances are such t h a t observance o f
r e g a r d l e s s o f o n e ' s w a n t s o r d e s i r e s . Yet a t t h e s a m e d m e , f e w
o n e D i v i n e law, say the law against l y i n g , involves b r e a c h
o f some o t h e r absolute D i v i n e p r o h i b i t i o n ? " — I f G o d is contemporary philosophers w o u l d defend the central idea of
r a t i o n a l , he does n o t c o m m a n d the i m p o s s i b l e ; i f G o d h i s e t h i c s , t h e C a t e g o r i c a l I m p e i a d v e , as K a n t f o r m u l a t e d i t . A s
governs a l l events by his p r o v i d e n c e , he can see to i t t h a t w e h a v e s e e n , t h e C a t e g o r i c a l I m p e r a t i v e is b e s e t b y s e r i o u s , p e r -
c i r c u m s t a n c e s in w h i c h a m a n is i n c u l p a b l y f a c e d by a haps i n s u r m o u n t a b l e , p r o b l e m s . N o n e t h e l e s s , i t m i g h t be a mis-
c h o i c e b e t w e e n f o r b i d d e n acts d o n o t o c c u r O f course t a k e t o g i v e u p o n K a n t ' s p r i n c i p l e t o o q u i c k l y . Is t h e r e s o m e ba-
such c i r c u m s t a n c e s ( w i t h the clause " a n d t h e r e is n o way sic i d e a u n d e r l y i n g t h e C a t e g o r i c a l I m p e r a t i v e t h a t w e m i g h t
o u t " w r i t t e n i n t o t h e i r d e s c r i p t i o n ) are consistendy de- a c c e p t , e v e n i f w e d o n o t a c c e p t K a n t ' s p a r t i c u l a r way o f ex-
s c r i b a b l e ; b u t God's p r o v i d e n c e c o u l d ensure t h a t they d o p r e s s i n g it? I b e l i e v e t h a t t h e r e is, a n d t h a t t h e p o w e r o f t h i s i d e a
n o t i n fact arise. C o n t r a r y to w h a t n o n h e l i e v e r s o f t e n say,
a c c o u n t s , a t l e a s t i n p a r t , f o r K a n t ' s vast i n f l u e n c e .
b e l i e f i n t h e existence o f G o d does make a d i f f e r e n c e to
w h a t o n e expects to h a p p e n . R e m e m b e r t h a t K a n t t h i n k s t h e C a t e g o r i c a l I m p e r a t i v e is
b i n d i n g o n r a t i o n a l agents s i m p l y because they are r a t i o n a l — i n
D o s u c h cases a c t u a l l y o c c u r ? T h e r e is n o d o u b t t h a t seri- o t h e r words, a p e r s o n w h o d i d n o t accept this p r i n c i p l e w o u l d
ous m o r a l r u l e s d o s o m e d m e s clash. D u r i n g the S e c o n d W o r l d be g u i l t y n o t m e r e l y o f b e i n g i m m o r a l b u t o f b e i n g i r r a d o n a l .
War, D u t c h f i s h e r m e n s m u g g l e d J e w i s h r e f u g e e s t o E n g l a n d i n T h i s is a c o m p e l l i n g i d e a , t h a t t h e r e a r e r a t i o n a l as w e l l as m o r a l
t h e i r boats, a n d the f i s h i n g boats w i t h refugees i n the h o l d constraints o n w h a t a g o o d p e r s o n m a y believe a n d d o . B u t w h a t
w o u l d s o m e d m e s be s t o p p e d b y N a z i p a t r o l b o a t s . T h e N a z i c a p - e x a c t l y does this m e a n ? I n w h a t sense w o u l d i t be i r r a t i o n a l to
t a i n w o u l d c a l l o u t a n d ask t h e D u t c h c a p t a i n w h e r e h e was reject the Categorical Imperative?
128 T H E E L E M E N T S O F M O R A L PH[L.OSOPHY ARE T H E R E A B S O L U T E M O R A L RULES? 129

T h e basic idea is r e l a t e d t o t h e t h o u g h t t h a t a m o r a l j u d g - d o so w e r e h e f a c e d w i t h t h e s a m e s i t u a t i o n . A n d m o s t o f us
m e n t m u s t be b a c k e d by g o o d r e a s o n s — i f i t is t r u e t h a t y o u o u g h t w o u l d readily agree to that.
( o r o u g h t n o t ) to d o such-and-such, t h e n t h e r e m u s t be a reason H a r r y T r u m a n , t o o , w o u l d n o d o u b t a g r e e t h a t a n y o n e else
why you should (or should not) d o it. For example, you may think i n his p a r d c u l a r c i r c u i n s t a n c e s w o u l d have g o o d r e a s o n to d r o p
t h a t y o u o u g h t n o t t o set f o r e s t fires b e c a u s e p r o p e r t y w o u l d be t h e b o m b . T h u s , e v e n i f T r u m a n was w r o n g , K a n t ' s a r g u i n e n t s
d e s t r o y e d a n d p e o p l e w o u l d b e k i l l e d . T h e K a n t i a n t w i s t is t o d o n o t p r o v e i t . O n e m i g h t say, i n s t e a d , t h a t T r u m a n was w r o n g
p o i n t o u t t h a t if you accept any considerations as reasons in one case, because o t h e r o p t i o n s available to h i m w o u l d have h a d b e t t e r
you must cdso accept them as reasons in other cases. I f t h e r e is a n o t h e r c o n s e q u e n c e s — m a n y people have a r g u e d , f o r e x a m p l e , t h a t he
case w h e r e p r o p e r t y w o u l d be d e s t r o y e d a n d p e o p l e k i l l e d , y o u s h o u l d have n e g o t i a t e d an e n d to the war o n terms that the
m u s t a c c e p t t h i s as a l e a s o n f o r a c t i o n i n t h a t case, t o o . I t is n o Japanese c o u l d have accepted. B u t saying that n e g o t i a t i n g
g o o d saying that y o u accept reasons some o f the time, b u t n o t all w o u l d h a v e b e e n b e t t e r , b e c a u s e o f i t s c o n s e q u e n c e s , is v e r y d i f -
the time; or that other people m u s t respect t h e m , b u t n o t you. f e r e n t f r o m s a y i n g t h a t T r u m a n ' s a c t u a l c o u r s e v i o l a t e d a n ab-
M o r a l reasons, i f they are valid at a l l , are b i n d i n g o n all p e o p l e at solute rule.
a l l d m e s . T h i s is a r e q u i r e m e n t o f c o n s i s t e n c y ; a n d K a n t was r i g h t
to t h i n k that n o r a d o n a l p e r s o n m a y d e n y it.
T h i s is t h e K a n d a n i d e a — - o r , I s h o u l d say, o n e o f t h e fent-
i a n i d e a s — t h a t has b e e n so i n f l u e n t i a l . I t has a n u m b e r o f i m -
p o r t a n t i m p h c a d o n s . I t i m p l i e s that a p e r s o n c a n n o t r e g a r d her-
s e l f as s p e c i a l , f r o m a m o r a l p o i n t o f v i e w : She cannot
c o n s i s t e n t l y t h i n k t h a t s h e is p e r m i t t e d t o a c t i n ways t h a \ a r e
f o r b i d d e n to others, o r t h a t h e r interests are m o r e i m p o r t a n t
t h a n o t h e r p e o p l e ' s interests. As o n e c o m m e n t a t o r r e m a r k e d , I
c a n n o t say t h a t i t is a l l r i g h t f o r m e t o d r i n k y o u r b e e r a n d t h e n
c o m p l a i n w h e n you d r i n k m i n e . Moreover, i t implies that there
a r e r a t i o n a l c o n s t r a i n t s o n w h a t we m a y d o : W e m a y w a n t t o d o
s o m e t h i n g — s a y , d r i n k s o m e o n e else's b e e r — b u t r e c o g n i z e t h a t
we c a n n o t c o n s i s t e n d y d o i t because w e c a n n o t at t h e s a m e d m e
a c c e p t t h e i m p l i c a t i o n t h a t h e m a y d r i n k o u r b e e r I f K a n t was
n o t t h e first t o r e c o g n i z e t h i s , h e was t h e first t o m a k e i t t h e c o r -
n e r s t o n e o f a f u l l y w o r k e d - o u t s y s t e m o f m o r a l s . T h a t w a s his
great c o n t r i b u t i o n .
B u t K a n t w e n t o n e step f u r t h e r a n d said t h a t consistency
r e q u i r e s r u l e s t h a t h a v e n o e x c e p t i o n s . I t is n o t h a r d t o see h o w
h i s basic i d e a p u s h e d h i m i n t h a t d i r e c t i o n ; b u t t h e e x t r a s t e p
was n o t necessary, a n d i t has c a u s e d t r o u b l e f o r h i s t h e o r y e v e r
s i n c e . R u l e s , e v e n w i t h i n a K a n t i a n f r a m e w o r k , n e e d n o t be r e -
g a r d e d as a b s o l u t e . A l l t h a t K a n t ' s b a s i c i d e a r e q u i r e s is t h a t
w h e n w e v i o l a t e a r u l e , w e d o so f o r a r e a s o n t h a t we w o u l d be
w i l l i n g f o r anyone to accept, were they i n o u r positioti. I n the
Case o f t h e I n q u i r i n g M u r d e r e r , t h i s m e a n s t h a t we m a y v i o l a t e
t h e r u l e a g a i n s t l y i n g o n l y i f w e w o u l d be w i l l i n g f o r a n y o n e t o
KANT AND R E S P E C T F O R P E R S O N S 131

L i k e a n u m b e r o f o t h e r philosophers, K a n t believed that


m o r a l i t y c a n be s u m m e d u p i n o n e u l t i m a t e p r i n c i p l e , f r o m
CHAPTER w h i c h a l l o u r d u t i e s a n d o b l i g a d o n s are d e r i v e d . H e c a l l e d this
p r i n c i p l e t h e C a t e g o r i c a l I m p e r a d v e . I n t h e Foundations of the
Metaphysics of Morals ( 1 7 8 5 ) h e e x p r e s s e d i t l i k e t h i s :

JiQmt and Respect for Persons A c t o n l y a c c o r d i n g to t h a t m a x i m by w h i c h y o u can at t h e


same t i m e will t h a t i t s h o u l d b e c o m e a universal law.

H o w e v e r , K a n t also gave a n o t h e r f o r m u l a t i o n o f t h e C a t e g o r i c a l
A r e there any w h o w o u l d n o t a d m i r e man? Impeiratiye. L a t e r i n the same b o o k , he said t h a t the u l t i m a t e
GIOVANNI PICO D E L L A MIRANDOLA, ORATION
m o r a l p r i n c i p l e m a y b e u n d e r s t o o d as s a y i n g :
ON THE DIGNITY OF MAN (1486)
A c t so t h a t y o u treat h u m a n i t y , w h e t h e r i n y o u r o w n p e r s o n
o r i n t h a t o f a n o t h e r , always as a n e n d a n d never as a m e a n s
only.
10.1. The Idea of Human Dignity Scholars have w o n d e r e d ever since w h y K a n t t h o u g h t these two
K a n t t h o u g h t that h u m a n beings o c c u p y a special place i n cre- rules were e q u i v a l e n t . T h e y seem to express d i f f e r e n t m o r a l
a t i o n . O f c o u r s e h e was n o t a l o n e i n t h i n k i n g t h i s . I t is a n o l d c o n c e p t i o n s . A r e t h e y , as h e a p p a r e r u l y b e l i e v e d , tv\'o v e r s i o n s o f
idea: F r o m a n c i e n t times, h u m a n s have c o n s i d e r e d themselves t h e s a m e basic i d e a , o r are t h e y r e a l l y d i f f e r e n t ideas? W e w i l l
t o be e s s e n t i a l l y d i f f e r e n t f r o m a l l o t h e r c r e a t u r e s — a n d n o | j u s t n o t p a u s e o v e r this q u e s t i o n . I n s t e a d we w i l l c o n c e n t r a t e o n
d i f f e r e n t , b u t b e t t e r I n fact, h u m a n s h a v e t r a d i t i o n a l l y t h o u g h t K a n t ' s b e l i e f t h a t m o r a l i t y r e q u i r e s us t o t r e a t p e r s o n s " a l w a y s as
t h e m s e l v e s t o b e q u i t e f a b u l o u s . K a n t c e r t a i n l y d i d . O n h i s view, a n e n d a n d n e v e r as a m e a n s o n l y . " W h a t e x a c t l y d o e s t h i s m e a n ,
h u m a n b e i n g s h a v e " a n i n t r i n s i c w o r t h , i . e . , dignity," which a n d w h y s h o u l d we t h i n k i t true?
makes t h e m v a l u a b l e "above a l l p r i c e . " O t h e r a n i m a l s , by c o n - W h e n K a n t s a i d t h a t t h e v a l u e o f h u m a n b e i n g s "is a b o v e
t r a s t , h a v e v a l u e o n l y i n s o f a r as t h e y s e r v e h u m a n p u r p o s e s . I n a l l p r i c e , " h e d i d n o t i n t e n d t h i s as m e r e r h e t o r i c b u t as a n o b -
h i s Lectures on Ethics ( 1 7 7 9 ) , fcint w r o t e : jective j u d g m e n t a b o u t the place o f h u m a n beings i n the
s c h e m e o f t h i n g s . T w o i m p o r t a n t facts a b o u t p e o p l e , i n his view,
But so f a r as animals are c o n c e r n e d , we have n o d i r e c t d u - s u p p o r t this j u d g m e n t .
ties. A n i m a l s . . . are there m e r e l y as means to an e n d . T h a t
First, because p e o p l e have desires a n d goals, o t h e r t h i n g s
e n d is m a n .
have v a l u e / o r t h e m , i n r e l a t i o n to t h e i r projects. M e r e " t h i n g s "
W e c a n , t h e r e f o r e , use a n i m a l s i n a n y w a y w e p l e a s e . W e d o n o t (and this includes n o n h u m a n animals, w h o m K a n t c o n s i d e r e d
even have a " d i r e c t d u t y " to r e f r a i n f r o m t o r t u r i n g t h e m . K a n t u n a b l e to have self-conscious desires a n d goals) have value o n l y
a d m i t s t h a t i t p r o b a b l y is w r o n g t o t o r t u r e t h e m , b u t t h e r e a - as m e a n s t o e n d s , a n d i t is h u m a n e n d s t h a t give t h e m v a l u e .
s o n is n o t t h a t t h e y w o u l d b e h u r t ; t h e r e a s o n is o n l y t h a t h u - T h u s i f y o u w a n t t o b e c o m e a b e t t e r chess p l a y e r , a b o o k o f c h e s s
m a n s m i g h t s u f f e r i n d i r e c d y as a r e s u l t o f i t , b e c a u s e " H e w h o i n s t r u c d o n will have value f o r y o u ; b u t apart f r o m such ends the
is c r u e l t o a n i m a l s b e c o m e s h a r d a l s o i n h i s d e a l i n g s w i t h b o o k has n o value. O r i f y o u w a n t to t r a v e l a b o u t , a car w i l l have
m e n . " T h u s , o n K a n t ' s view, m e r e a n i m a l s have n o m o r a l i m - value f o r y o u ; b u t a p a r t f r o m such a desire the car will have n o
p o r t a n c e . H u m a n beings are, however, a n o t h e r story entirely. value.
A c c o r d i n g t o K a n t , h u m a n s m a y n e v e r b e " u s e d " as m e a n s t o S e c o n d , a n d e v e n m o r e i m p o r t a n t , h u m a n s have " a n i n -
a n e n d . H e e v e n w e n t so f a r as t o s u g g e s t t h a t t h i s is t h e u l t i - t r i n s i c w o r t h , i . e . , d i g n i t y , " b e c a u s e t h e y a r e rational agents, t h a t
mate law o f morality. is, f r e e a g e n t s c a p a b l e o f m a k i n g t h e i r o w n d e c i s i o n s , s e t t i n g

130
132 T H E ELEMENTS OF MORAL PHILOSOPHY KANT AND RESPECT F O R PERSONS 133

t h e i r o w n g o a l s , a n d g u i d i n g t h e i r c o n d u c t by r e a s o n . B e c a u s e son, c o n s u l d n g his o w n values a n d wishes, a n d m a k e a f r e e , a u -


t h e m o r a l l a w is t h e l a w o f r e a s o n , r a d o n a l b e i n g s a r e t h e e m - t o n o m o u s c h o i c e . I f h e d i d d e c i d e to give t h e m o n e y f o r t h e
b o d i m e n t o f t h e m o r a l l a w i t s e l f . T h e o n l y way t h a t m o r a l g o o d - s t a t e d p u r p o s e , h e w o u l d b e c h o o s i n g to make that purpose his own.
ness c a n e x i s t is f o r r a t i o n a l c r e a t u r e s t o a p p r e h e n d w h a t t h e y T h u s y o u w o u l d n o t b e u s i n g h i m as a m e a n s t o a c h i e v i n g y o u r
s h o u l d d o a n d , a c d n g f r o m a sense o f d u t y , d o i t . T h i s , K a n t g o a l , f o r i t w o u l d n o w b e h i s g o a l , t o o . T h i s is w h a t K a n t m e a n t
t h o u g h t , is t h e o n l y t h i n g t h a t has " m o r a l w o r t h . " T h u s i f t h e r e w h e n h e said, " R a t i o n a l b e i n g s . . . m u s t always be e s t e e m e d at
were n o rational beings, the m o r a l d i i u e n s i o n o f the w o r l d t h e s a n i e t i m e as e n d s , i.e., o n l y as b e i n g s w h o m u s t be a b l e t o
would simply disappear c o n t a i n i n themselves the e n d o f t h e very same a c t i o n . "
I t m a k e s n o sense, t h e r e f o r e , t o r e g a r d r a t i o n a l b e i n g s K a n t ' s c o n c e p t i o n o f h u m a n d i g n i t y is n o t easy t o g r a s p ; i t
m e r e l y as o n e k i n d o f v a l u a b l e t h i n g a m o n g o t h e r s . T h e y a r e is p r o b a b l y t h e m o s t d i f f i c u l t n o t i o n d i s c u s s e d i n t h i s b o o k . W e
t h e beings f o r w h o m m e r e " t h i n g s " have v a l u e , a n d t h e y are the n e e d t o find a w a y t o m a k e t h e i d e a c l e a r e r I n o r d e r t o d o t h a t ,
b e i n g s w h o s e c o n s c i e n t i o u s a c t i o n s h a v e m o r a l w o r t h . So K a n t we w i l l c o n s i d e r i n s o m e d e t a i l o n e o f its m o s t i m p o r t a n t a p p l i -
c o n c l u d e s t h a t t h e i r value m u s t be absolute, a n d n o t c o m p a r a - cadons. T h i s m a y be b e t t e r t h a n a d r y , t h e o r e t i c a l d i s c u s s i o n .
b l e t o t h e v a l u e o f a n y t h i n g else. Kant b e l i e v e d t h a t i f w e t a k e t h e i d e a o f h u m a n d i g n i t y s e r i o u s l y ,
I f t h e i r v a l u e is " b e y o n d a l l p r i c e , " i t f o l l o w s t h a t r a d o n a l w e w i l l be a b l e t o u n d e r s t a n d t h e p r a c t i c e o f c r i m i n a l p u n i s h -
b e i n g s m u s t b e t r e a t e d "always as a n e n d a n d n e v e r as a m e a n s m e n t i n a n e w a n d r e v e a l i n g way. T h e r e s t o f t h i s c h a p t e r w i l l b e
o n l y . " T h i s m e a n s , o n the m o s t s u p e r f i c i a l level, t h a t we have a d e v o t e d to a n e x a m i n a d o n o f this e x a m p l e .
strict d u t y o f b e n e f i c e n c e t o w a r d o t h e r persons: W e m u s t strive
to p r o m o t e t h e i r w e l f a r e ; w e m u s t r e s p e c t t h e i r r i g h t s , a v o i d
10.2. Retribution and Utility in the Theory
h a r m i n g t h e m , a n d g e n e r a l l y " e n d e a v o r , so f a r as w e c a n , to f t j ^ -
ther the ends o f others." S, of Punishment
B u t K a n t ' s i d e a also has a s o m e w h a t d e e p e r i m p l i c a t i o n . J e r e m y B e n t h a m , the great u t i l i t a r i a n theorist, said t h a t " a l l
T h e b e i n g s vs'e a r e t a l k i n g a b o u t a r e r a t i o n a l b e i n g s , a n d " t r e a t - p u n i s h m e n t is m i s c h i e f a l l p u n i s h m e n t i n i t s e l f is e v i l . " B y t h i s
i n g t h e m as e n d s - i n - t h e t i i s e l v e s " m e a n s respecting their rationality. h e m e a n t t h a t p u n i s h m e n t always i n v o l v e s t r e a t i n g p e o p l e
T h u s we m a y n e v e r m a n i p u l a t e p e o p l e , o r use p e o p l e , t o badly, w h e t h e r by t a k i n g away t h e i r f r e e d o m ( i m p r i s o n m e n t ) ,
achieve o u r purposes, n o m a t t e r h o w g o o d those purposes m a y their p r o p e r t y (fines), o r even their life (capital p u n i s h m e n t ) .
b e . K i m t g i v e s t h i s e x a m p l e , w h i c h is s i m i l a r t o o n e h e uses to i l - Since these t h i n g s are all evils, they r e q u i r e j u s d f i c a t i o n . H o w
l u s t r a t e t h e first v e r s i o n o f h i s C a t e g o r i c a l I m p e r a t i v e : S u p p o s e c a n i t be r i g h t t o t r e a t p e o p l e l i k e this?
you need money, and you want a loan, b u t you know you will n o t T h e t r a d i t i o n a l a n s w e r is t h a t p u n i s h m e n t is j u s t i f i e d as a
b e a b l e t o r e p a y i t . I n d e s p e r a t i o n , y o u c o n s i d e r m a k i n g a false way o f " p a y i n g b a c k " t h e o f f e n d e r f o r his evil d e e d . T h o s e w h o
p r o m i s e to repay i n o r d e r to trick a f r i e n d i n t o giving you the h a v e c o m m i t t e d c r i m e s , s u c h as s t e a l i n g f r o m o t h e r p e o p l e o r
m o n e y . M a y y o u d o this? P e r h a p s y o u n e e d t h e m o n e y f o r a assaulting o t h e r p e o p l e , deserve to be t r e a t e d b a d l y i n r e t u r n . I t
g o o d p u r p o s e — s o g o o d , i n fact, that y o u m i g h t convince your- is e s s e n t i a l l y a m a t t e r o f j u s t i c e : I f s o m e o n e h a r m s o t h e r p e o p l e ,
s e l f t h e l i e w o u l d be j u s t i f i e d . N e v e r t h e l e s s , i f y o u l i e d t o y o u r j u s t i c e r e q u i r e s t h a t h e be h a r m e d also. As t h e a n c i e n t s a y i n g
f r i e n d , y o u w o u l d merely be m a n i p u l a t i n g h i m a n d using h i m has i t , " A n eye f o r a n e y e , a t o o t h f o r a t o o t h . "
"as a m e a n s . "
T h i s v i e w is k n o w n as R e t r i b u t i v i s m . R e t r i b u t i v i s m was, o n
O n t h e o t h e r h a n d , w h a t w o u l d i t be l i k e t o t r e a t y o u r B e n t h a m ' s view, a w h o l l y u n s a d s f a c t o r y i d e a , because i t a d v o -
f r i e n d "as a n e n d " ? S u p p o s e y o u t o l d t h e t r u t h , t h a t y o u n e e d t h e cated the i n f l i c t i o n o f s u f f e r i n g w i t h o u t any c o m p e n s a d n g g a i n
m o n e y f o r a c e r t a i n p u r p o s e b u t w i l l n o t be able to repay it. T h e n i n h a p p i n e s s . R e t r i b u t i v i s m w o u l d h a v e us i n c r e a s e , n o t d e -
y o u r f r i e n d c o u l d m a k e u p his o w n m i n d a b o u t w h e t h e r to let c r e a s e , t h e a m o u n t o f s u f f e r i n g i n t h e w o r l d . T h i s is n o t a " h i d -
y o u h a v e t h e m o n e y H e c o u l d e x e r c i s e h i s o w n p o w e r s o f rea- d e n " i m p h c a t i o n o f R e t r i b u t i v i s m . K a n t , w h o was a r e t r i b u t i v i s t .
134 T H E E L E M E N I S O F MOliAL P H I L O S O P H Y K A N T /VND R E S P E C T F O R P E R S O N S 135

was a w a r e o f t h i s i m p h c a t i o n a n d o p e n l y e m b r a c e d it. I n The f u n c t i o n w e l l i n society T h e y are o f t e n i l l e d u c a t e d a n d u n -


Critique of Practical Reason ( 1 7 8 8 ) , h e w r o t e : able to h o l d d o w n j o b s . C o n s i d e r i n g this, why s h o u l d w e n o t
r e s p o n d t o c r i m e b y a t t a c k i n g t h e p r o b l e m s t h a t g i v e rise t o it?
W h e n someone who delights in annoying and vexing I f a p e r s o n is b r e a k i n g s o c i e t y ' s r u l e s , h e is a d a n g e r t o s o c i e t y
peace-loving f o l k receives at last a r i g h t g o o d b e a t i n g , i t is
a n d m a y first b e i m p r i s o n e d t o r e m o v e t h e d a n g e r B u t w h i l e
c e r t a i n l y a n i l l , b u t everyone approves o f i t a n d considers it
h e is t h e r e , h i s p r o b l e m s s h o u l d b e a d d r e s s e d w i t h p s y c h o l o g -
as g o o d i n itself even i f n o t h i n g f u r t h e r results f r o m i t .
i c a l t h e r a p y , e d u c a t i o n a l o p p o r t u n i t i e s , o r j o b t r a i n i n g , as a p -
T h u s p u n i s h i n g people may increase the a m o u n t o f misery i n p r o p r i a t e . I f h e c a n e v e n t u a l l y b e r e t u r n e d t o s o c i e t y as a p r o -
t h e w o r l d ; b u t a c c o r d i n g t o K a n t t h a t is a l l r i g h t , f o r t h e e x t r a d u c t i v e c i t i z e n , r a t h e r t h a n as a c r i m i n a l , b o t h h e a n d s o c i e t y
s u f f e r i n g is b o r n e by t h e c r i t n i n a t w h o , a f t e r a l l , d e s e r v e s i t . will benefit.
U d l i t a r i a n i s m takes a v e r y d i f f e r e n t a p p r o a c h . A c c o r d i n g t o T h e l o g i c a l o u t c o m e o f t h i s w a y o f t h i n k i n g is t h a t w e
U t i l i t a r i a n i s m , o u r d u t y is t o d o w h a t e v e r w i l l i n c t e a s e t h e s h o u l d a b a n d o n the n o t i o n punishment and replace i t w i t h
a m o u n t o f h a p p i n e s s i n t h e w o r l d . P u n i s h m e n t is, o n its f a c e , " a n t h e m o r e h u m a n e n o t i o n o f treatment. K a r l M e i m i n g e r , t h e d i s -
e v i l " b e c a u s e i t m a k e s s o m e o n e — t h e p e r s o n w h o is p u n i s h e d — d n g u i s h e d psychologist, d r e w this c o n c l u s i o n w h e n he w r o t e
u n h a p p y . T h u s B e n t h a m says, " I f i t o u g h t a t a l l t o be a d m i t t e d , i t i n 1959: \
o u g h t t o be a d m i t t e d i n as f a r as i t p r o m i s e s t o e x c l u d e s o m e
W e , t h e a g e n t s o f society, m u s t m o v e to e n d t h e g a m e o f
g r e a t e r e v i l . " I n o t h e r w o r d s , i t c a n be j u s t i f i e d o n l y i f i t w i l l h a v e d t - f o r - t a t a n d b l o w - f o r - b l o w i n w h i c h t h e o f f e n d e r has
g o o d r e s u l t s t h a t , o n b a l a n c e , outv\'eigh t h e e v i l d o n e . f o o l i s h l y e n g a g e d h i m s e l f a n d us. We are n o t d r i v e n , as
.So f o r t h e u d l i t a r i a n , t h e q u e s d o n is w h e t h e r a g o o d p u r - h e is, t o w i l d a n d i m p u l s i v e a c t i o n s . W i t h k n o w l e d g e
p o s e is s e r v e d b y p u n i s h i n g c r i m i n a l s , o t h e r t h a n s i m p l y m a k i n g c o m e s p o w e r , a n d w i t h p o w e r t h e r e is n o n e e d f o r the
t h e m s u f f e r U t i l i t a r i a n s h a v e t r a d i t i o n a l l y a n s w e r e d i n t h e af- f r i g h t e n e d v e n g e a n c e o f t h e o l d p e n o l o g y . I n its p l a c e
firmative. T h e r e a r e t w o ways i n w h i c h t h e p r a c t i c e o f p u n i s h i n g should go a quiet, d i g n i f i e d , therapeutic p r o g r a m f o r die
r e h a b i l i t a t i o n o f the disorganized one, i f possible, the
l a w b r e a k e r s b e n e f i t s society.
p r o t e c t i o n o f society d u r i n g t h e t r e a t m e n t p e r i o d , a n d
First, p u n i s h i n g c r i m i n a l s h e l p s to p r e v e n t c r i m e , o r at
his g u i d e d r e t u r n to u s e f u l c i d z e n s h i p , as s o o n as t h i s can
least t o r e d u c e t h e l e v e l o f c r i m i n a l actiNdty i n a societ)'. P e o p l e be e f f e c t e d .
w h o a r e t e m p t e d t o m i s b e h a v e c a n b e d e t e r r e d f r o m d o i n g so i f
t h e y k n o w t h e y w i l l be p u n i s h e d . O f c o u r s e , t h e t h r e a t o f p u n - These u t i l i t a r i a n ideas have d o m i n a t e d A n g l o - A m e r i c a n law f o r
i s h m e n t w i l l n o t always be e f f i c a c i o u s . S o m e t i m e s p e o p l e w i l l the past century, a n d today the u t i l i t a r i a n t h e o r y o f p u n i s h m e n t
b r e a k t h e l a w a n y w a y . B u t t h e r e w i l l be less m i s c o n d u c t i f p u n - is t h e r e i g n i n g o r t h o d o x y . P r i s o n s , o n c e m e r e p l a c e s o f c o n -
i s h m e n t s a r e t h r e a t e n e d . I m a g i n e w h a t i t w o u l d be l i k e i f t h e finement, h a v e b e e n r e d e s i g n e d ( i n t h e o i y , a t l e a s t ) as c e n t e r s
p o l i c e d i d n o t stand ready t o arrest thieves; o n e w o u l d have to for r e h a b i l i t a t i o n , c o m p l e t e w i t h psychologists, libraries, educa-
be a h o p e l e s s r o m a n d c n o t t o r e c o g n i z e t h a t t h e r e w o u l d be a tional programs, and vocational training. T h e shift i n thinking-
l o t m o r e t h i e v e r y . S i n c e c r i m i n a l r r u s c o n d u c t causes u n h a p p i - has b e e n so g r e a t t h a t t h e t e r m prison is n o l o n g e r i n f a v o r ; t h e
ness t o i t s v i c t i m s , i n p r e v e n t i n g c r i m e ( b y p r o v i d i n g p u n i s h - p r e f e r r e d n o m e n c l a t u r e is correctional facility, and the people
m e n t s ) we a r e p r e v e n t i n g u n h a p p i n e s s — i n fact w e are u n - w h o w o r k t h e r e a r e c a l l e d corrections officers. N o t i c e t h e i m p l i c a -
d o u b t e d l y p r e v e n t i n g m o r e u n h a p p i n e s s t h a n we are c a u s i n g . tions o f the n e w t e r m i n o l o g y — i n m a t e s are t h e r e n o t to be " p u n -
T h u s , b e c a u s e t h e r e is a n e t g a i n i n h a p p i n e s s , t h e u t i l i t a r i a n i s h e d " b u t t o be " c o r r e c t e d . " I n fact, p r i s o n s r e m a i n b r u t a l
w o u l d see p u n i s h m e n t as j u s t i f i e d . places a n d m o r e o f t e n t h a n n o t the p r o g r a m s o f r e h a b i h t a d o n
S e c o n d , a well-designed system o f p u n i s h m e n t m i g h t have b e e n dismally unsuccessful. Nevertheless, the p r o g r a m s
h a v e t h e e f f e c t o f r e h a b i l i t a t i n g w r o n g d o e r s . C r i m i n a l s a r e of- a r e supposed to Z ) e r e h a b i l i t a d v e . T h e v i c t o r y o f t h e u t i l i t a r i a n i d e -
t e n p e o p l e w i t h e m o d o n a l p r o b l e m s , w h o find i t d i f f i c u l t t o olog)' has b e e n v i r t u a l l y c o m p l e t e .
136 T H E ELEMENTS OF MORAL PHILOSOPHY K A N T AND R E S P E C T F O R P E R S O N S 137

10.3. Kant's Retributivism B u t w h a t is t h e m o d e a n d m e a s u r e o f p u n i s h m e n t w h i c h


p u b l i c j u s d c e takes as its p r i n c i p l e a n d standard? I t is j u s t
L i k e all o r t h o d o x i e s , t h e u t i l i t a r i a n t h e o r y o f p u n i s h m e n t has the p r i n c i p l e o f equality, by w h i c h t h e p o i n t e r o f t h e scale
g e n e r a t e d o p p o s i t i o n . M u c h o f t h e o p p o s i t i o n is p r a c d c a l i n n a - o f j u s d c e is m a d e to i n c l i n e n o m o r e to t h e o n e side t h a n
ture; the p r o g r a m s o f r e h a b i l i t a t i o n , despite all the efforts that to t h e o t h e r . . . H e n c e i t m a y be said: " I f y o u slander a n -
have b e e n p u t i n t o t h e m , have n o t w o r k e d very w e l l . I n Califor- o t h e r , y o u s l a n d e r yourself; i f y o u steal f r o m a n o t h e r , y o u
nia, f o r e x a m p l e , m o r e has b e e n d o n e t o " r e h a b i l i t a t e " c r i m i - steal f r o m y o u r s e l f ; i f y o u strike a n o t h e r , y o u strike y o u r -
self; i f you k i l l a n o t h e r , you kill y o u r s e l f " T h i s is . . . t h e o n l y
nals t h a n a n y w h e r e else; y e t t h e r a t e o f r e c i d i v i s m is h i g h e r
p r i n c i p l e w h i c h . . . can d e f m i t e l y assign b o t h t h e q u a l i t y
t h e r e t h a n i n m o s t o t h e r states. B u t s o m e o f t h e o p p o s i d o n is
a n d t h e q u a n t i t y o f a j u s t penalty.
also b a s e d o n p u r e l y t h e o r e t i c a l c o n s i d e r a t i o n s t h a t g o b a c k a t
least t o K i i n L T h i s s e c o n d p r i n c i p l e leads lL;int i n e v i t a b l y t o e n d o r s e c a p i t a l
K i i n t a b j u r e d " t h e s e r p e n t - w i n d i n g s o f U t i l i t a r i a n i s m " be- p u n i s h n i e n t ; f o r i n r e s p o n s e t o m u r d e r , o n l y d e a t h is a s u f f i -
cause, h e s a i d , t h e t h e o r y is i n c o m p a t i b l e w i t h h u m a n d i g n i t y . c i e n d y s t e r n p e n a l t y . I n a n o t o r i o u s p a s s a g e , K a n t says:
I n t h e f i r s t p l a c e , i t has u s c a l c u l a t i n g h o w t o u s e p e o p l e as
Even i f a civil society resolved to dissolve i t s e l f w i t h t h e c o n -
m e a n s t o a n e n d , a n d t h i s is n o t p e r m i s s i b l e . I f w e i m p r i s o n t h e
sent o f a l l its m e m b e r s — a s m i g h t be s u p p o s e d i n t h e case
c r i m i n a l i n o r d e r t o s e c u r e t h e w e l l - b e i n g o f society, w e a r e
o f a p e o p l e i n h a b i t i n g an island r e s o l v i n g to separate a n d
m e r e l y u s i n g h i m f o r t h e b e n e f i t o f others. T h i s violates t h e f u n - scatter t h r o u g h o u t t h e w h o l e w o r l d — t h e last m u r d e r e r ly-
d a m e n t a l r u l e that " o n e m a n o u g h t never to be dealt w i t h i n g i n p r i s o n o u g h t to be e x e c u t e d b e f o r e t h e r e s o l u t i o n ^,
m e r e l y as a m e a n s s u b s e r v i e n t t o t h e p u r p o s e o f a n o t h e r " was c a r r i e d o u t . T h i s o u g h t to be d o n e i n o r d e r t h a t every
Moreover, the a i m o f " r e h a b i l i t a t i o n , " a l t h o u g h it sounds o n e m a y realize t h e desert o f h i s deeds, a n d t h a t b l o o d -
n o b l e e n o u g h , is a c t u a l l y n o m o r e t h a n t h e a t t e m p t t o m o l d guiltiness m a y n o t r e m a i n o n t h e p e o p l e ; f o r o t h e r w i s e
p e o p l e i n t o w h a t w e t h i n k t h e y s h o u l d b e . A s s u c h , i t is a v i o l a - they will a l l be r e g a r d e d as p a r d c i p a n t s i n t h e m u r d e r as a
tion o f t h e i r r i g h t s as a u t o n o m o u s b e i n g s t o d e c i d e f o r t h e m - public violation o f jusdce.
selves w h a t s o r t o f p e o p l e t h e y w i l l b e . W e d o h a v e t h e r i g h t t o
I t is w o r t h n o t i n g t h a t U t i h t a r i a n i s m h a s b e e n f a u l t e d f o r
r e s p o n d t o t h e i r w i c k e d n e s s by " p a y i n g t h e m b a c k " f o r i t , b u t we v i o l a t i n g b o t h o f K a n t ' s p r i n c i p l e s . T h e r e is n o t h i n g i n t h e b a -
d o n o t h a v e t h e r i g h t t o v i o l a t e t h e i r i n t e g r i t y b y t r y i n g t;o m a - sic i d e a o f U t i l i t a r i a n i s m t h a t l i m i t s p u n i s h m e n t t o t h e g u i l t y , o r
nipulate their personalities. that limits the a m o u n t o f p u n i s h m e n t to the a m o u n t deserved.
T h u s K a n t w o u l d have n o p a r t o f u t i l i t a r i a n j u s t i f i c a t i o n s o f I f t h e p u r p o s e o f p u n i s h m e n t is t o s e c u r e t h e g e n e r a l w e l f a r e ,
p u n i s h m e n t . I n s t e a d , h e a r g u e d t h a t p u n i s h m e n t s h o u l d b e gov- as U t i l i t a r i a n i s m says, i t c o u l d s o m e t i m e s h a p p e n t h a t t h e g e n -
e r n e d by two principles. First, p e o p l e s h o u l d be p u n i s h e d simply e r a l w e l f a r e w i l l be s e r v e d by " p u n i s h i n g " s o m e o n e w h o has n o t
because they have c o m m i t t e d c r i m e s , a n d f o r n o o t h e r reason: c o m m i t t e d a c r i m e — a n innocent person. Similarly, it m i g h t
h a p p e n t h a t t h e g e n e r a l w e l f a r e is p r o m o t e d b y p u n i s h i n g p e o -
J u r i d i c a l p u n i s h m e n t can never be a d m i n i s t e r e d m e r e l y as
ple excessively—a g r e a t e r p u n i s h m e n t m i g h t have a greater d e -
a means f o r p r o m o t i n g a n o t h e r g o o d eil:her w i t h r e g a r d t o
t e r r e n t effect. B u t b o t h o f these are, o n t h e i r face, v i o l a t i o n s o f
the c r i m i n a l h i m s e l f o r to civil society, b u t must i n a l l cases
justice, which R e t r i b u t i v i s m w o u l d n o t allow.
be i m p o s e d o n l y because t h e i n d i v i d u a l o n w h o m i t is i n -
f l i c t e d has c o m m i t t e d a c r i m e . N o w Kant's two p r i n c i p l e s d o n o t constitute a n a r g u m e n t i n
favor o f p u n i s h m e n t o r a justification o f it. T h e y merely describe
A n d s e c o n d , K a n t says i t is i m p o r t a n t t o p u n i s h t h e c r i m i n a l ^ r o - limits o n w h a t p u n i s h m e n t can j u s d y involve: O n l y the guilty m a y
pmtionately t o t h e seriousness o f his c r i m e . Small p u n i s h m e n t s be p u n i s h e d , a n d t h e i n j u r y d o n e t o t h e p e r s o n p u n i s h e d m u s t b e
m a y s u f f i c e f o r siriall c r i m e s , b u t b i g p u n i s h m e n t s a r e n e c e s s a r y c o m p a r a b l e t o t h e i n j u r y h e has i n f l i c t e d o n o t h e r s . W e s t i l l n e e d
in response to big crimes: an a r g u m e n t to show that die practice o f p u n i s h m e n t , conceived
138 T H E E L E M E N T S O F MORAL P H I L O S O P H Y KANT AND RESPECT FOR PERSONS 139

i n this way, w o u l d b e a m o r a l l y g o o d t h i n g . W e have a l r e a d y n o t e d h i m even i f we w a n t e d to. T h e same goes f o r m e n t a l l y de-


t h a t K a n t r e g a r d s p u n i s h m e n t as a m a t t e r o l j u s t i c e . H e says t h a t , ranged humans.
i f t h e g u i l t y a r e n o t p u n i s h e d , j u s t i c e is n o t d o n e . T h i s is o n e ar- O n the o t h e r h a n d , r a t i o n a l beings are r e s p o n s i b l e f o r
g u m e n t . B u t K a n t also p r o v i d e s a n a d d i t i o n a l a r g u m e n t , b a s e d o n t h e i r b e h a v i o r a n d so t h e y a r e a c c o u n t a b l e f o r w h a t t h e y d o . W e
his c o n c e p t i o n o f t r e a t i n g p e o p l e as " e n d s - i n - t h e m s e l v e s . " T h i s acf may feel g r a t i t u d e w h e n they behave well a n d r e s e n t m e n t w h e n
d i t i o n a l a r g u m e n t is K a n t ' s d i s t i n c t i v e c o n t r i b u t i o n t o t h e t h e o r y they behave badly. R e w a r d a n d p u n i s h m e n t — n o t " t r a i n i n g " or
of Retributivism. o t h e r m a n i p u l a t i o n — a r e the n a t u r a l expressions o f this g r a t i -
O n t h e face o f i t , i t s e e m s u n l i k e l y t h a t we c o u l d d e s c r i b e t u d e a n d r e s e n t m e n t . T h u s i n p u n i s h i n g p e o p l e , we are h o l d -
p u n i s h i n g s o m e o n e as " r e s p e c t i n g h i m as a p e r s o n " o r as " t r e a t - i n g t h e m r e s p o n s i b l e f o r t h e i r a c t i o n s i n a w a y i n w h i c h we c a n -
i n g h i m as a n e n d - i n - h i m s e l f . " H o w c o u l d t a k i n g a w a y s o m e - n o t h o l d m e r e a n i m a l s responsible. W e are r e s p o n d i n g to t h e m
o n e ' s f r e e d o m , b y s e n d i n g h i m t o p r i s o n , b e a way o f " r e s p e c t - n o t as p e o p l e w h o a r e " s i c k " o r w h o h a v e n o c o n t r o l o v e r t h e m -
i n g " h i m ? Yet t h a t is e x a c t l y w h a t K a n t suggests. E v e n m o r e selves, b u t as p e o p l e w h o h a v e f r e e l y c h o s e n t h e i r e v i l d e e d s .
p a r a d o x i c a l l y , h e i m p l i e s t h a t e x e c u t i n g s o m e o n e m a y also be a F u r t h e r m o r e , i n d e a l i n g w i t h r e s p o n s i b l e agents, we m a y
way o f t r e a t i n g h i m "as a n e n d . " H o w c a n t h i s be? p r o p e r l y a l l o w t h e i r c o n d u c t t o d e t e r m i n e , at least i n p a r t , h o w
R e m e m b e r t h a t , f o r K a n t , t r e a t i n g s o m e o n e as a n " e n d - i n - w e r e s p o n d t o t h e m . I f s o m e o n e has b e e n k i n d t o y o u , y o u m a y
h i m s e l f m e a n s t r e a t i n g h i m as a rational being. T h u s we h a v e t o r e s p o n d b y b e i n g g e n e r o u s i n r e t u r n ; a n d i f s o m e o n e is n a s t y t o
ask. W h a t d o e s i t m e a n t o t r e a t s o m e o n e as a r a t i o n a l b e i n g ? A y o u , y o u m a y also t a k e t h a t i n t o a c c o u n t i n d e c i d i n g h o w t o d e a l
r a t i o n a l b e i n g is s o m e o n e w h o is c a p a b l e o f r e a s o n i n g a b o u t h i s w i t h h i m o r h e r A n d w h y s h o u l d n ' t you? W h y s h o u l d y o u treat
c o n d u c t a n d w h o f r e e l y d e c i d e s w h a t h e w i l l d o , o n t h e basis o f e v e r y o n e a l i k e , r e g a r d l e s s o f b o w they hsive c h o s e n t o b e h a v e ?
his o w n c o n c e p t i o n o f w h a t is best. B e c a u s e h e has t h e s e c a p a c i - K a n t g i v e s t h i s l a s t p o i n t a d i s t i n c t i v e t w i s t . T h e r e is, o n h i s
ties, a r a t i o n a l b e i n g is r e s p o n s i b l e f o r h i s a c t i o n s . view, a d e e p l o g i c a l r e a s o n f o r r e s p o n d i n g t o o t h e r p e o p l e " i n
We n e e d to bear i n m i n d the d i f f e r e n c e between: k i n d . " T h e Erst f o r m u l a t i o n o f the Categorical Imperative
c o m e s i n t o p l a y h e r e . W h e n we d e c i d e w h a t t o d o , w e i n efle:ct
1 . T r e a t i n g s o m e o n e as a r e s p o n s i b l e b e i n g
p r o c l a i m o u r w i s h t h a t o u r c o n d u c t be m a d e i n t o a " u n i v e r s a l
and law." T h e r e f o r e , w h e n a r a t i o n a l b e i n g decides to t r e a t p e o p l e
i n a c e r t a i n way, h e d e c r e e s t h a t i n h i s j u d g m e n t this is the way
2. T r e a t i n g s o m e o n e as a b e i n g w h o is n o t r e s p o n s i b l e f o r
people are to be treated. T h u s i f w e t r e a t h i m t h e s a m e w a y i n r e t u r n ,
his c o n d u c t .
we a r e d o i n g n o t h i n g m o r e t h a n t r e a t i n g h i m as he has decided
M e r e animals, w h o lack reason, are n o t r e s p o n s i b l e f o r t h e i r p e o p l e a r e t o be t r e a t e d . I f h e t r e a t s othe^rs b a d l y , a n d w e t r e a t
actions; n o r are p e o p l e w h o are m e n t a l l y i l l a n d n o t i n c o n - h i m badly, w e are c o m p l y i n g w i t h his o w n d e c i s i o n . ( A n d o f
t r o l o f t h e m s e l v e s . I n s u c h cases i t w o u l d b e a b s u r d t o " h o l d course, i f h e treats o t h e r s w e l l , a n d w e t r e a t h i m w e l l i n r e t u r n ,
t h e m accountable." We c o u l d n o t p r o p e r l y feel gratitude or w e a r e a l s o c o m p l y i n g w i t h t h e c h o i c e h e has m a d e . ) W e a r e a l -
r e s e n t m e n t t o w a r d t h e m , f o r t h e y are n o t r e s p o n s i b l e f o r any l o w i n g h i m t o d e c i d e h o w h e is t o b e t r e a t e d a n d so w e a r e , i n a
g o o d o r i l l they cause. M o r e o v e r , we c a n n o t e x p e c t t h e m to p e r f e c d y c l e a r sense, r e s p e c t i n g h i s j u d g m e n t , b y a l l o w i n g i t t o
u n d e r s t a i i d why w e t r e a t t h e m as we d o , a n y m o r e t h a n t h e y c o n t r o l o u r t r e a t m e n t o f h i m . T h u s K a n t says o f t h e c r i m i n a l ,
u n d e r s t a n d w h y t h e y b e h a v e as t h e y d o . So we h a v e n o c h o i c e "His o w n evil d e e d draws the p u n i s h m e n t u p o n himself."
b u t to d e a l w i t h t h e m by m a n i p u l a t i n g t h e m , r a t h e r t h a n by By associating p u n i s h m e n t w i t h the i d e a o f t r e a t i n g p e o p l e
a d d r e s s i n g t h e m as a u t o n o m o u s i n d i v i d u a l s . W h e n w e s p a n k as r a t i o n a l b e i n g s , K a n t g a v e t h e r e t r i b u t i v e t h e o r y a n e w d e p t h .
a d o g w h o has u r i n a t e d o n t h e r u g , f o r e x a m p l e , we m a y d o W T i a t we u l t i m a t e l y t h i n k o f t h e t h e o r y w i l l d e p e n d o n w h a t w e
so i n a n a t t e m p t t o p r e v e n t h i m f r o m d o i n g i t a g a i n ; b u t we t h i n k a b o u t t h e b i g issues K a n t h a s i d e n t r t i e d — o n w h a t w e
are m e r e l y t r y i n g to " t r a i n " h i m . W e c o u l d n o t r e a s o n w i t h j u d g e the n a t u r e o f c r i m e , a n d the n a t u r e o f c r i m i n a l s , to be. I f
] 40 T H E ELEMENTS OF M O R A L f ' H ILOSOPHY

l a w b r e a k e r s a r e , as M e n n i n g e r s u g g e s t s , " d i s o r g a n i z e d p e r s o n -
alities" w h o are " d r i v e n to w i l d a n d i m p u l s i v e actions" over
w h i c h they have n o c o n t r o l , t h e n the t h e r a p e u d c m o d e l will i n -
evitably have greater appeal t h a n Kant's sterner a t t i t u d e . I n fact,
CH7\PTER 11
K a n t h i m s e l f w o u l d insist t h a t i f c r i m i n a l s are n o t r e s p o n s i b l e
a g e n t s , i t w o u l d m a k e n o sense t o r e s e n t t h e i r b e h a v i o r a n d
" p u n i s h " t h e m f o r i t . B u t t o t h e e x t e n t t h a t t h e y a r e r e g a r d e d as
J^heTdea of a Social Contrac^
responsible p e o p l e , w i t h o u t excuse, w h o s i m p l y choose to vio-
late the r i g h t s o f others f o r n o r a t i o n a l l y acceptable m o t i v e ,
T h e passions taa"t> i c l i n e m e n to peace, are fear o f d e a t h ; desire o f
K a n t i a n R e t r i b u t i v i s m will c o n t i n u e to have g r e a t persuasive
such t h i n g s as ar •w^cessary to c o m m o d i o u s l i v i n g ; a n d a h o p e by
power
t h e i r i n d u s t r y to dbc t h e m . A n d reason suggesteth c o n v e n i e n t
articles o f peace, u j /hich m e n may be d r a w n to a g r e e m e n t .
These articles, are the^ ?hich o t h e r w i s e are c!alled the Laws o f
Nature.
'^'^ T H O M A S I I O B B E S , I^XVJATHAN (1651)

11.1. Hobbes's Argui


S u p p o s e w e t a k e a w a y all t h e t m d i t i o n a l p r o p s f o r m o r a l i t y . As-
s u m e , first, t h a t t h e r e is no G o d ; % ) issue c o m m a n d s a n d r e w a r d
virtue; a n d second, t h a t there are%o " m o r a l facts" b u i l t into the
n a t u r e of t h i n g s . F u r t h e r , s u p p o s e W d e n y t h a t h u m a n b e i n g s
a r e n a t u r a l l y a l t r u i s t i c — w e see p e o p l e as e s s e n t i a l l y m o t i v a t e d
to p u r s u e t h e i r o w n i n t e r e s t s . W h e r e , t h e n , d o e s m o r a l i t y c o m e
f r o m ? I f we c a n n o t a p p e a l to G o d , m o r a l f a c t s , o r n a t u r a l a l t r t i -
i s m , is t h e r e a n y t h i n g l e f t on viMch. m o r a m y m i g h t be f o u n d e d ?
T h o m a s H o b b e ^ ; t h e f o r e m o s t BritisH p h i l o s o p h e r of t h e
1 7 t h c e n t u r y , tried-^to s h o w t h a t m o r a l i t y d b e s not d e p e n d on
a n y of t h o s e t h i p ^ . I n s t e a d , m o r a l i t y should\|)e u n d e r s t o o d as
t h e s o l u t i o n J.6 a ' l i r a c t i c a l p r o b l e m t h a t arises f W s e l f - i n t e r e s t e d
h u m a n beirlg§6We all w a n t to l i v e as w e l l as p o s ^ b l e ; b u t n o n e
of us c a n flotmsh u n l e s s we h a v e a p e a c e f u l , c o o j ^ r a t i v e s o c i a l
o r d e r A h a We c a n n o t h a v e a p e a c e f u l , c o o p e r a t i v e A p c i a l o r d e r
without/ru|es. T h e m o r a l r u l e s , t h e n , a r e s i m p l y tn^^rules t h a t
a r e n e c e s s a r y if we a r e to g a i n t h e b e n e f i t s of s d ^ d l i v i n g .
T h a t — n / t G o d , a l t r u i s m , or " m o r a l f a c t s " — i s t h e k e y U o ^ n d e r -
s t a n d i n g ' ethics.
M o b b e s b e g i n s by a s k i n g w h a t it w o u l d be l i k e if t h e r e
w e r ^ n o s o c i a l r u l e s a n d no c o m m o n l y a c c e p t e d m e c h a n i s m

141