This is a student's introduction to the historical context, key themes and current debates in Utilitarianism. Utilitarianism is the ethical theory advanced by Jeremy Bentham, J.S. Mill and Henry Sidgwick and has contributed significantly to contemporary moral and political philosophy. Yet it is not without controversy and is a subject that students can often find particularly perplexing. "Utilitarianism: A Guide for the Perplexed" offers a concise, yet fully comprehensive introduction to utilitarianism, its historical roots, key themes, and current debates. Krister Bykvist provides a survey of the modern debate about utilitarianism and goes on to evaluate utilitarianism in comparison with other theories, in particular virtue ethics and Kantianism. Bykvist offers a critical examination of utilitarianism, distinguishing problems that are unique to utilitarianism from those that are shared by other moral theories. Focusing on the problems unique to utilitarianism, the book provides a well-balanced assessment of where the theory goes astray and is in need of revision.
Geared towards the specific requirements of students who need to reach a sound understanding of utilitarianism, the book serves as an ideal companion to study of this most influential and challenging of philosophical concepts. "Continuum's Guides for the Perplexed" are clear, concise and accessible introductions to thinkers, writers and subjects that students and readers can find especially challenging - or indeed downright bewildering. Concentrating specifically on what it is that makes the subject difficult to grasp, these books explain and explore key themes and ideas, guiding the reader towards a thorough understanding of demanding material.
Krister Bykvist is a Fellow and Tutor in Philosophy at Jesus College, University of Oxford, UK.
1. Introduction; 2. How to Assess Normative Theories; 3. The Basic Elements of Utilitarianism; 4. Well-being; 5. Aggregation; 6. Utilitarianism as a User-Friendly Guide to Action; 7. Is Utilitarianism Too Demanding?; 8. Is Utilitarianism Too Permissive?; 9. Outcomes; 10. The Place of Rules in Utilitarianism; 11. Conclusion.