The latest content update at utilitarianism.net has:
Expanded the practical ethics chapter to explain utilitarianism’s implications for action guidance in more detail, including how the canonical distinction between a utilitarian criterion of rightness and recommended decision procedure means that counterproductively “calculating utilities” is not an implication of utilitarianism, whereas “respecting commonsense norms” plausibly is.
Added a new article on the Cluelessness objection, engaging with Lenman’s influential arguments. Three important upshots: (i) cluelessness is a real possibility, not an objection to the moral theories that correctly recognize this; (ii) it seems excessively skeptical to deny that the acts utilitarians typically identify as positive in expectation—e.g. saving and improving lives—really are so; and (iii) if we really were that clueless, it would pose similar practical difficulties for all reasonable theories (since all reasonable theories allow sufficiently high stakes to be practically decisive).
Added a new article on the Abusability objection. This explains (i) how utilitarianism has the resources to mitigate risks of abuse without resorting to self-effacement, and (ii) why it’s not an objection to a theory if it turns out to be self-effacing anyway (as it’s trivial to show that every reasonable theory is possibly self-effacing).
One fun point from the latter article, which I haven’t previously noticed others appreciate, is that the abusability objection is plausibly itself self-effacing. As we explain in a footnote:
In spreading the false idea that utilitarianism easily justifies abuses, proponents of the abusability objection are, ironically enough, contributing to the very problem that they worry about. Given the strong theoretical case for utilitarianism, it’s inevitable that many reflective people will be drawn to the view. If you start telling them that their view justifies real-life atrocities, some of them might believe you. That would be bad, because the claim is both harmful and false. As a result, we do better to promote a more sophisticated understanding of the relation between utilitarian theory and practice—emphasizing the value of generally-reliable rules and heuristics, and the unreliability of crude calculations when these conflict with more-reliable heuristics.
Originally appeared on Good Thoughts Read More