Utilitarianism as a public philosophy

Bibliographic Information

Utilitarianism as a public philosophy

Robert E. Goodin

(Cambridge studies in philosophy and public policy)

Cambridge University Press, 1995

  • : hbk
  • : pbk

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Includes bibliographical references (p. 321-346) and index

Description and Table of Contents


Utilitarianism, the great reforming philosophy of the nineteenth century, has today acquired the reputation for being a crassly calculating, impersonal philosophy unfit to serve as a guide to moral conduct. Yet what may disqualify utilitarianism as a personal philosophy makes it an eminently suitable guide for public officials in the pursuit of their professional responsibilities. Robert E. Goodin, a philosopher with many books on political theory, public policy and applied ethics to his credit, defends utilitarianism against its critics and shows how it can be applied most effectively over a wide range of public policies. In discussions of such issues as paternalism, social welfare policy, international ethics, nuclear armaments, and international responses to the environment crisis, he demonstrates what a flexible tool his brand of utilitarianism can be in confronting the dilemmas of public policy in the real world.

Table of Contents

  • Part I. Introduction: Moral Bases of State Action: 1. Utilitarianism as a public philosophy
  • 2. The state as a moral agent
  • Part II. Morality, Public and Private: 3. Do motives matter?
  • 4. Government house utilitarianism
  • Part III. Shaping Private Conduct: 5. Responsibilities
  • 6. Distributing credit and blame
  • 7. Apportioning responsibilities
  • Part IV. Shaping Public Policies: Section A. Respecting and overriding preferences: 8. Liberalism and the best-judge principle
  • 9. Laundering preferences
  • 10. Heroic measures and false hopes
  • 11. Theories of compensation
  • Section B. Ensuring social security: 12. Stabilising expectations
  • 13. Compensation and redistribution
  • 14. Basic income
  • 15. Relative needs
  • C. International ethics
  • 16. What is so special about our fellow countrymen?
  • 17. Nuclear disarmament as a moral certainty
  • 18. International ethics and the environmental crisis
  • References
  • Index.

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