Criticisms of utilitarianism
Re: Justification:

Undesirable implications:

        a) It makes supererogatory acts impossible.
        b) It dictates such things as altruistic suicide.
        c) It ignores the value of an action that may have 'less-than-maximum utility'.

Problems in application:

  • It is not clear how we can:
  • a) judge specifically how one particular quality or pleasure is better than another.
  • b) determine what is to count as a 'unit of pleasure'.
  • c) compare one person's preferences or pains with another's.
  • There is no obvious procedure (e.g., voting) we can use to determine what will produce the greatest happiness of the greatest number. Moreover, we never can determine this, for this would involve knowing the effect of an action on future generations. (Fagothey 2)
  • Alleged Inconsistencies:

  • Despite its claim to consider everyone equally, utilitarianism
  • a) is indifferent to how pleasures are distributed. (Matters of affection have no apparent role.)
  • b) ignores persons as persons--each is just a vehicle for utility. (Individual ends, interests and affections are ignored, and utilitarianism seems indifferent to, e.g., whether 10 people have X units of pleasure or 20 people have X/2 units.)