Moral Theory
• An explanation of why an action is
right or wrong or why a person or a
person’s character is good or bad
• Tells us what it is about an action that
makes it right
Moral Theory
• Consequentialist theory—Asserts that
the rightness of actions depends
solely on their consequences
• Deontological theory—Asserts that
the rightness of actions is determined
partly or entirely by their intrinsic
The view that right actions are those that
result in the most beneficial balance of
good over bad consequences for everyone
• Act-utilitarianism—The rightness of actions
depends solely on the relative good
produced by individual actions
• Rule-utilitarianism—A right action is one
that conforms to a rule that, if followed
consistently, would create for everyone
involved the most beneficial balance of
good over bad
Classical Utilitarianism—Jeremy Bentham
Utilitarianism Refined—John Stuart Mill
• Mill thinks that some kinds of pleasures are
more valuable than others.
• Bentham insists that pleasures should be
measured by their quantity, not quality.
• Mill declares that it is better to be Socrates
dissatisfied than a fool satisfied.
A Defense of Utilitarianism—Kai Nielsen
• The moral worth of an action is determined
by its consequences.
• We are responsible not only for the
consequences of our actions, but also for
the consequences of our nonactions.
Against Utilitarianism—Bernard Williams
• Utilitarianism is a bad moral theory.
• Utilitarianism makes unintelligible our
• Utilitarianism involves the notion of
negative responsibility.
The Ones Who Walk Away from
Omelas— Ursula Le Guin
• Le Guin offers a critical portrait of
• Would you walk away from Omelas?
The Utilitarian Social Engineer and the
Savage— Aldous Huxley
• Huxley contrasts freedom and high culture
with happiness.
• Is the truth in the middle, as Huxley
implies—between complete, unregulated
freedom of will and social stability wherein
we can find happiness?