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Problems of Utilitarianism. Naturalistic Fallacy Lacks Justification Lacks Intrinsic Goods. Problem of Utilitarianism: Commits the Naturalistic Fallacy. “Cannot deduce an OUGHT from an IS” ( G.E. Moore ) Cannot move from FACT to VALUES

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problems of utilitarianism
Problems of Utilitarianism
  • Naturalistic Fallacy
  • Lacks Justification
  • Lacks Intrinsic Goods
problem of utilitarianism commits the naturalistic fallacy
Problem of Utilitarianism:Commits the Naturalistic Fallacy
  • “Cannot deduce an OUGHT from an IS” (G.E. Moore)
  • Cannot move from FACT to VALUES
  • Cannot move from EPISTEMOLOGY (knowledge) to ETHICS

(G.E. Moore, Principia Ethica)

problem of utilitarianism commits the naturalistic fallacy1
Problem of Utilitarianism:Commits the Naturalistic Fallacy

From the mere statement of psychological fact that people actually desire happiness for its own sake

  • one cannot deduce the evaluative conclusion that pleasure is desirable, i.e. that it ought to be desired.

People may desire something that they ought not to desire, something which is not really desirable.

e.g People may desire to take hard drugs as it produces pleasure. But is taking hard drugs good?

utilitarian s universal altruism lacks justification
Utilitarian’s Universal Altruism Lacks Justification

Each person desires his / her own happiness.


Therefore each person ought to aim for his or her own happiness.

This jump from


Hedonism to

include the

welfare of others

lacks support.

Therefore everyone ought to aim at the happiness of everyone

utilitarianism counter intuitive
Utilitarianism: Counter-intuitive

As an intuitionistW.D. Ross rejected

utilitarianism on the grounds that it

ignores intrinsic goods that are counter,

or contrary, to our intuitive, innate, sense of right and wrong.

Even if it could be shown that happiness

was greatest by lying to people there

is something simply wrong about

lying and deception which would

make people wish to reject such an ethic.

W.D. Ross

utilitarianism lack of intrinsic goods
Utilitarianism: Lack of Intrinsic Goods

Utilitarianism is a consequential morality and so lacks intrinsic goods, such as trust, honesty and dignity. This creates an ethos of uncertainty where people are never really sure if they are valued.


YUPPIES (Young Urban Professional People)

In the early 1980s many middle-aged businessmen, who had shown great loyalty accruing high profits for their companies were sacked over-night; to be replaced by YUPPIES. YUPPIES were considered to be of greater immediateuse to the company, being younger and so cheaper in the short run.

people a re s eparate a nd u nique
People Are Separate And Unique

Professor Simon Blackburn has argued that “Utilitarianism does not take seriously the separateness of persons – the idea being that it subordinates the rights of the individual to solidarity with the general welfare.”(Being Good, p.92)

e.g. In World War II the right of the pacifist Methodist minister, Lord Donald Soper, to speak out against the war was denied as it was thought his words would undermine the war effort and was detrimental to the general welfare of the country.

utilitarianism requires a non utilitarian framework in order to work
Utilitarianism requires a non-utilitarian framework in order to work

Professor Alasdair MacIntyre argues that utilitarianism is effective as an ethical theory only when it operates within a non-utilitarian framework, where intrinsic, deontological values enable people to flourish.

e.g. Happiness may be promoted in a society that upholds intrinsic values of justice, liberty and honesty.

Alasdair MacIntyre