Utilitarianism Framework

The value criterion is...maximizing expected utility.

Here are some of the best justifications for a utilitarianism framework.

Badness of Pain (Nagel)

The avoidance of pain is an objective good that ought to be maximized, requiring utilitarianism.

Thomas Nagel. “The View From Nowhere.” HUP. 1986. 156-168.


I shall defend the unsurprising claim that sensory pleasure is good and pain bad, no matter whose they are. The point of the exercise is to see how the pressures of objectification operate in a simple case. Physical pleasure and pain do not usually depend on activities or desires which themselves raise questions of justification and value. They are just sensory experiences in relation to which we are fairly passive, but toward which we feel involuntary desire or aversion. Almost everyone takes the avoidance of his own pain and the promotion of his own pleasure as subjective reasons for action in a fairly simple way; they are not back up by any further reasons. On the other hand if someone pursues pain or avoids pleasure, either it as a means to some end or it is backed up by dark reasons like guilt or sexual masochism. What sort of general value, if any, ought to be assigned to pleasure and pain when we consider these facts from an objective standpoint? What kind of judgment can we reasonably make about these things when we view them in abstraction from who we are? We can begin by asking why there is no plausibility in the zero position, that pleasure and pain have no value of any kind that can be objectively recognized. That would mean that I have no reason to take aspirin for a severe headache, however I may in fact be motivated; and that looking at it from outside, you couldn't even say that someone had a reason not to put his hand on a hot stove, just because of the pain. Try looking at it from the outside and see whether you can manage to withhold that judgment. If the idea of objective practical reason makes any sense at all, so that there is some judgment to withhold, it does not seem possible. If the general arguments against the reality of objective reasons are no good, then it is at least possible that I have a reason, and not just an inclination, to refrain from putting my hand on a hot stove. But given the possibility, it seems meaningless to deny that this is so. Oddly enough, however, we can think of a story that would go with such a denial. It might be suggested that the aversion to pain is a useful phobia—having nothing to do with the intrinsic undesirability of pain itself—which helps us avoid or escape the injuries that are signaled by pain. (The same type of purely instrumental value might be ascribed to sensory pleasure: the pleasures of food, drink, and sex might be regarded as having no value in themselves, though our natural attraction to them assists survival and reproduction.) There would then be nothing wrong with pain in itself, and someone who was never motivated deliberately to do anything just because he knew it would reduce or avoid pain would have nothing the matter with him. He would still have involuntary avoidance reactions, otherwise it would be hard to say that he felt pain at all. And he would be motivated to reduce pain for other reasons—because it was an effective way to avoid the danger being signaled, or because interfered with some physical or mental activity that was important to him. He just wouldn't regard the pain as itself something he had any reason to avoid, even though he hated the feeling just as much as the rest of us. (And of course he wouldn't be able to justify the avoidance of pain in the way that we customarily justify avoiding what we hate without reason—that is, on the ground that even an irrational hatred makes its object very unpleasant!) There is nothing self-contradictory in this proposal, but it seems nevertheless insane. Without some positive reason to think there is nothing in itself good or bad about having an experience you intensely like or dislike, we can't seriously regard the common impression to the contrary as a collective illusion. Such things are at least good or bad for us, if anything is. What seems to be going on here is that we cannot from an objective standpoint withhold a certain kind of endorsement of the most direct and immediate subjective value judgments we make concerning the contents of our own consciousness. We regard ourselves as too close to those things to be mistaken in our immediate, nonideological evaluative impressions. No objective view we can attain could possibly overrule our subjective authority in such cases. There can be no reason to reject the appearances here.

Consequentialist Nature of Moral Value (Harris)

All questions of value depend upon consequentialist experiences.

Sam Harris (CEO Project Reason; PHD UCLA Neuroscience; BA Stanford Philosophy). “The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values.” 2010.

Here is my (consequentialist) starting point: all questions of value (right and wrong, good and evil, etc.) depend upon the possibility of experiencing such value. Without potential consequences at the level of experience—happiness, suffering, joy, despair, etc.—all talk of value is empty. Therefore, to say that an act is morally necessary, or evil, or blameless, is to make (tacit) claims about its consequences in the lives of conscious creatures (whether actual or potential). I am unaware of any interesting exception to this rule. Needless to say, [For example,] if one is worried about pleasing God or His angels, this assumes that such invisible entities are conscious (in some sense) and cognizant of human behavior. It also generally assumes [and] that it is possible to suffer their [his] wrath or enjoy their approval, either in this world or the world to come. Even within religion, therefore, consequences and conscious states remain the foundation of all values.


Moral value is ultimately an expression of our well-being.

Sam Harris (CEO Project Reason; PHD UCLA Neuroscience; BA Stanford Philosophy). “The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values.” 2010.

Now that we have consciousness on the table, my further claim is that the concept of “well-being” captures all that we can intelligibly value. And “morality”—whatever people’s associations with this term happen to be— really relates to the intentions and behaviors that affect the well-being of conscious creatures. On this point, religious conceptions of moral law are often put forward as counterexamples: for when asked why it is important to follow God’s law, many people will cannily say, “for its own sake.” Of course, it is possible to say this, but this seems neither an honest nor a coherent claim. What if a more powerful God would punish us for eternity for following Yahweh’s law? Would it then make sense to follow Yahweh’s law “for its own sake”? The inescapable fact is that religious people are as eager to find happiness and to avoid misery as anyone else: many of them just happen to believe that the most important changes in conscious experience occur after death (i.e., in heaven or in hell). And while Judaism is sometimes held up as an exception—because it tends not to focus on the afterlife—the Hebrew Bible makes it absolutely clear that Jews should follow Yahweh’s law out of concern for the negative consequences of not following it. People who do not believe in God or an afterlife, and yet still think it important to subscribe to a religious tradition, only believe this because living this way [it] seems to make some positive contribution to their well-being or to the well-being of others. 9 Religious notions of morality, therefore, are not exceptions to our common concern for well-being. And all other philosophical efforts to describe morality in terms of duty, fairness, justice, or some other principle that is not explicitly tied to the wellbeing of conscious creatures, draw upon some conception of well-being in the end.

Determinism and Compatibilism (Greene and Cohen, Newell)

NECESSARY LINK: see page Determinism True

If determinism is true, the only coherent moral framework is consequentialism since it does not assign moral responsibility to the free will of individual actors, but instead simply evaluates the goodness or badness of overall states of affairs.

Joshua Greene and Jonathan Cohen (Department of Psychology, Princeton). “For the law, neuroscience changes nothing and everything.” Phil. Trans. R. Soc. Lond. B (2004) 359, 1775–1785.

Even if there is no intuitively satisfying solution to the problem of free will, it does not follow that there is no correct view of the matter. Ours is as follows: when it comes to the issue of free will itself, hard determinism is mostly correct. Free will, as we ordinarily understand it, is an illusion. However, it does not follow from the fact that free will is an illusion that there is no legitimate place for responsibility. Recall from x 2 that there are two general justifications for holding people legally responsible for their actions. The retributive justification, by which the goal of punishment is to give people what they really deserve, does depend[s] on this dubious notion of free will. However, the consequentialist approach does not require a belief in free will at all. As consequentialists, we can hold people responsible for crimes simply because doing so has, on balance, beneficial effects through deterrence, containment, etc. It is sometimes said that if we do not believe in free will then we cannot legitimately punish anyone and that society must dissolve into anarchy. In a less hysterical vein, Daniel Wegner argues that free will, while illusory, is a necessary fiction for the maintenance of our social structure (Wegner 2002, ch. 9). We disagree. There are perfectly good, forward-looking justifications for punishing criminals that do not depend on metaphysical fictions. (Wegner’s observations may apply best to the personal sphere: see below.)


Because consequentialism is forward-looking rather than backward-looking, only it can provide the basis for moral obligations and punishments in a deterministic world.

Brandi Jo Newell (Department of Psychology, Wellesley College). “Can Neuroscience Inform the Free Will Debate?” Indiana Undergraduate Journal of Cognitive Science 4 (2009) 54-64.

In order to remain in line with our moral intuitions, it seems that our justice system must give up on the retributive justification for punishment. However, as long as the consequentialist argument for punishment can hold up to determinism, there may still be a place for the penal system (albeit a modified version) that is consistent with our changing moral understandings. The reader will remember that consequentialist accounts of punishment are not based on backward-looking ideas of just deserts, but on forward-looking ideas of prevention: It is justifiable to punish those who infringe on the rights of other members of society because it will detain current criminals (and thus keep them from doing more harm) and deter future criminals. This explanation of punishment is consistent with determinism because it does not necessitate that the criminal be held morally accountable. He is not punished because he was in control of his decisions and made a poor choice, but because he is a danger to the public. Taking away his rights will ensure that he will not cause any further harm, and his incarceration will serve as a disincentive to others who, without the threat of punishment, may have acted similarly in the future. But for every point, there is a counterpoint: Goodenough (2004) argued that consequentialist punishment, just like retributive punishment, relies on an assumption of free will and is, therefore, null and void in a deterministic universe. He claims that when we base our justification of punishment on the value of deterrence, we are making an implicit commitment to the idea that the criminal “had the capacity to fully integrate the threat of punishment into [his/her] decision-making calculus, and to act accordingly, i.e. as if he/she had a kind of free will” (pp. 1807). The problem with Goodenough’s (2004) argument is that one’s ability to incorporate the costs of punishment does not depend on his being free. Our brain includes new factors into its decision-making every day—I feel hungry; considering this new piece of information, my brain weighs the options and decides that the best course of action is to eat in the near future. The threat of punishment can be treated like any other parameter we consider as we go through our days—Steve was jailed for shooting Mary; considering this new piece of information, my brain weighs the options and decides that the best course of action is to not shoot people. The consequentialist argument does not rely on an assumption of free will, but merely an assumption that we are capable of incorporating new information into our decision-making processes, and this just happens to be the brain’s specialty. Therefore, despite Goodenough’s objection, the consequentialist justification for punishment stands up to the exacting test of determinism. With this established, it seems that our penal system should not be entirely tossed out, but refurbished under the assumption that the goal of punishment is entirely consequentialist, rather than retributivist.

Existential Risk (Bostrum)

Ethical uncertainty means we should seek to ensure the survival of humanity.

Nick Bostrom (Faculty of Philosophy & Oxford Martin School University of Oxford). “Existential Risk Prevention as Global Priority.” Global Policy 2012.

These reflections on moral uncertainty suggest[s] an alternative, complementary way of looking at existential risk; they also suggest a new way of thinking about the ideal of sustainability. Let me elaborate. Our present understanding of axiology might well be confused. We may not now know — at least not in concrete detail — what outcomes would count as a big win for humanity; we might not even yet be able to imagine the best ends of our journey. If we are indeed profoundly uncertain about our ultimate aims, then we should recognize that there is a great option value in preserving — and ideally improving — our ability to recognize value and to steer the future accordingly. Ensuring that there will be a future version of humanity with great powers and a propensity to use them wisely is plausibly the best way available to us to increase the probability that the future will contain a lot of value. To do this, we must prevent any existential catastrophe.

Inference to Best Explanation (Pettit)

NECESSARY LINK: see page Inference to Best Explanation True

Since knowledge is a question of inference to the best explanation, consequentialism ought to be adopted because it is a better explanation of moral truths than non-consequentialism. The non-consequentialist story is non-unified, ad hoc, and at odds with non-moral rationality.

Phillip Pettit (Professor of Politics and Philosophy, Princeton). “Consequentialism.” A Companion to Ethics, ed. Peter Singer (1993), 238.

There are at least three respects in which consequentialism scores on simplicity. The first is that whereas consequentialists endorse only one way of responding to values, non-consequentialists endorse two. Non-consequentialists all commit themselves to the view that certain values should be honoured rather than promoted: say, values like those associated with loyalty and respect. But they all agree, whether or not in their role as moral theorists, that certain other values should be promoted: values as various as economic prosperity, personal hygiene, and the safety[.] of nuclear installations. Thus where consequentialists introduce a single axiom on how values justify choices, non-consequentialists must introduce two. But not only is non-consequentialism less simple for losing the numbers game. It is also less simple for playing the game in an ad hoc[.] way. Non-consequentialists all identify certain values as suitable for honouring rather than promoting. But they do not generally explain what it is about the values identified which means that justification comes from their being honoured[.] rather than promoted. And indeed it is not clear what satisfactory explanation can be provided. It is one thing to make a list of the values which allegedly require honouring: values, say, like personal loyalty, respect for others, and punishment for wrongdoing. It is another to say why [are] these values are so very different from the ordinary run of desirable properties. There may be features that mark them off from other values, but [and] why do those [different] features matter so much? That question typically goes unconsidered by non-consequentialists. Not only do they have a duality then where consequentialists have a unity; they also have an unexplained duality. The third respect in which consequentialism scores on the simplicity count is that it fits nicely with our standard views of what rationality[.] requires, whereas non-consequentialism is in tension with such views. The agent concerned with a value is in a parallel position to that of an agent concerned with some personal good[.]: say, health or income or status. In thinking about how an agent should act on the concern for a personal good, we unhesitatingly say that of course the rational thing to do, the rationally justified action, is to act so that the good is promoted [the good]. That means then that whereas the consequentialist line on how values justify choices is continuous with the standard line on rationality[.] in the pursuit of personal goods, the non-consequentialist line is not. The non-consequentialist has the embarrassment of having to defend a position on what certain values require which is without analogue in the non-moral area of practical rationality.                      

Moral Equality (Rakowski)

Moral equality demands maximizing the amount of lives saved.*

Eric Rakowski. “Taking and Saving Lives.” Columbia Law Review, Vol. 93, No. 5, (Jun., 1993), pp. 1063-1156. http://www.jstor.org/stable/1122960.

On one side, it presses toward the consequentialist view that individuals' status as moral equals requires that the number of people kept alive be maximized. Only in this way, the thought runs, can we give due weight to the fundamental equality of persons; to allow more deaths when we can ensure fewer is to treat some people as less valuable than others. Further, killing some to save others, or letting some die for that purpose, does not entail that those who are killed or left to their fate are being used merely as means to the well-being of others, as would be true if they were slain or left to drown merely to please people who would live anyway. They do, of course, in some cases serve as means. But they do not act merely as means. Those who die are no less ends than those who live. It is because they are also no more ends than others whose lives are in the balance that an impartial decision-maker must choose to save the more numerous group, even if she must kill to do so.

*Rakowski is not a utilitarian. This card should not be used directly, but it illustrates a prominent argument (which can be made analytically) in favor of utilitarianism.

No Act-Omission Distinction

NECESSARY LINK: see page No Act-Omission Distinction

If there is no act-omission distinction, then we must accept utilitarianism since only the amount of the harm determines its badness, as opposed to something like intent, so we should seek to minimize harm.

Pragmatism (Frega)

NECESSARY LINK: see page Pragmatism True

If pragmatism is true, then we must accept consequentialism because the nature of public decision-making as aimed at affecting the lives of citizens mandates that actions have the intended consequence.

Frega [Equal Accessibility to All: Habermas, Pragmatism, and the Place of Religious Beliefs in a Post-Secular Society. Roberto Frega. Constellations, Volume 19, Number 2, 2012.]

A third theoretical module needs to be introduced in order to complete this pragmatic strategy. It concerns the idea – central for the whole pragmatist tradition – that consequences form the ground of meaning and that an examination of the consequences that follow from adopting a belief as one’s basis for action should constitute the basis of public deliberation. In a standard Deweyan conception of public reason, public decisions should be based on an experimental assessment of the consequences that would result were we to act in accordance with the beliefs a given agent advances as the proper basis for public action.43 This is the main ground on which pragmatism proposes to settle adjudicative disputes in public contexts. Appeal to consequences is in fact the preferential basis on which pragmatism proposes to fix the meaning of beliefs and, as a consequence, the basis on which it builds the legitimacy of procedures of adjudication. According to this perspective, the condition of publicity required by public reason implies that a disputed belief has to be examined, not with respect to its basis of justification, but by assessing the consequences that would follow should it be adopted as a basis for action. This type of assessment, in turn, does not aim[s] at assessing the moral or political value of [or] the belief[‘s] under examination, but only its viability as a basis for joint action. Agents should choose to act on one belief rather than another on the basis of the expected outcome they wish to obtain. Public deliberation, to this extent, is neutral with respect to the greater or lesser de- grees of validity of competing comprehensive doctrines. Adjudication looks forwards to the production and control of outcomes, not backwards to justificatory grounds. The [since its] goal of adjudication, in fact, is strictly limited to the assessment of the social and political consequences that the adoption of a belief as a basis for action brings about. If one examines with the pragmatist model in mind all the controversies about the place of religious beliefs within the public sphere, one is simply astonished to realize how little space is devoted to assessing the consequences associated with the adoption of given beliefs as a basis for action. Critics and defenders of specific legislative proposals concerning hotly debated issues such as the right to abortion, the control of reproductive technologies, and the wearing of religious symbols in public places have rarely questioned the epistemic and political contribution that examining consequences – instead of searching for their abstract justification – could have made to the unfolding of a rational process of public deliberation. Reference to consequences in fact provides a fruitful ground for addressing the problem of legitimacy, as consequences, intended or expected, are what any public policy is about: creating changes in society that will affect the life of its citizens. This is obviously the case with decisions concerning social reform, welfare, and issue of distributive justice. But it also holds true for decisions concerning the regulation of family life (gay marriages, adoption procedures, etc.), the reproductive sphere, or the freedom of religious practice and expression.

Public Justification and Tradeoffs (Woller)

NECESSARY LINK: see page Public Justification for Governments

Governments can only justify legitimate policies to the public through a utilitarian framework.

Gary Woller (BYU Professor). “An Overview by Gary Woller.” A Forum on the Role of Environmental Ethics. June 1997. pp. 10.

Moreover, virtually all public policies entail some redistribution of economic or political resources, such that one group's gains must come at another group's ex- pense. Consequently, public policies in a democracy must be justified to the public, and especially to those who pay the costs of those policies. Such justification cannot simply be assumed a priori by invoking some higher-order moral principle. Appeals to a priori moral principles, such as environmental preservation, also often fail to acknowledge that public policies inevitably entail trade-offs among competing values. Thus since policymakers cannot justify inherent value conflicts to the public in any philosophical sense, and since public policies inherently imply winners and losers, the policymakers' duty [is] to the public interest requires them to demonstrate that the redistributive effects and value trade-offs implied by their polices are somehow to the overall advantage of society. At the same time, deontologically based ethical systems have severe practical limitations as a basis for public policy. At best, a priori moral principles provide only general guidance to ethical dilemmas in public affairs and do not themselves suggest appropriate public policies, and at worst, they create a regimen of regulatory unreasonableness while failing to adequately address the problem or actually making it worse. For example, a moral obligation to preserve the environment by no means implies the best way, or any way for that matter, to do so, just as there is no a priori reason to believe that any policy that claims to preserve the environment will actually do so. Any number of policies might work, and others, although seemingly consistent with the moral principle, will fail utterly. That deontological principles are an inadequate basis for environmental policy is evident in the rather significant irony that most forms of deontologically based environmental laws and regulations tend to be implemented in a very utilitarian manner by street-level enforcement officials. Moreover, ignoring the relevant costs and benefits of environmental policy and their attendant incentive structures can, as alluded to above, actually work at cross purposes to environmental preservation. (There exists an extensive literature on this aspect of regulatory enforcement and the often perverse outcomes of regulatory policy. See, for example, Ackerman, 1981; Bartrip and Fenn, 1983; Hawkins, 1983, 1984; Hawkins and Thomas, 1984.) Even the most die-hard preservationist/deontologist would, I believe, be troubled by this outcome. The above points are perhaps best expressed by Richard Flathman, The number of values typically involved in public policy decisions, the broad categories which must be employed and above all, the scope and complexity of the consequences to be anticipated militate against reasoning so conclusively that they generate an imperative to institute a specific policy. It is seldom the case that only one policy will meet the criteria of the public interest (1958, p. 12). It therefore follows that in a democracy, policymakers have an ethical duty to establish a plausible link between policy alternatives and the problems they address, and the public must be reasonably assured that a policy will actually do something about an existing problem; this requires the means-end language and methodology of utilitarian ethics. Good intentions, lofty rhetoric, and moral piety are an insufficient.

Reductionism (Parfit)

NECESSARY LINK: see page Reductionism True

If reductionism is true and personal identity is irrelevant, then utilitarianism is justified since only states of affairs carry moral significance.

Derek Parfit.  “Reasons and Persons.” Oxford. 1984.

This suggestion differs from the others in the following way. Rawls remarks that the Utilitarian View seems to involve 'conflating all persons into one'. 100 Nagel similarly claims that a Utilitarian 'treats the desires . . . 299 of distinct persons as if they were the desires . . . of a mass person.' 101 And I have quoted Gauthier's similar claim. On my suggestion, the Utilitarian View may be supported by, not the conflation of persons, but their partial disintegration [of persons]. It may rest upon the view that a person's life is less deeply integrated than most of us assume. Utilitarians may be treating benefits and burdens, not as if they all came within the same life, but as if it made no moral difference where they came. And this belief may be partly supported by the view that the unity of each life, and hence the difference between lives, is in its nature less deep.  In ignoring principles of distribution between different people, the Utilitarian View is impersonal. Rawls suggests that it "mistakes imperson- ality for impartiality'. 102 This would be so if the way in which Utilitarians try to be impartial leads them to overlook the difference between persons. And this may be claimed for the few Utilitarians whose method of moral reasoning does have this effect. It may be claimed about an identifying Impartial Observer, whose method of reasoning leads him to imagine that he will himself be all of the affected people. But few Utilitarians have reasoned in this way. And, on my suggestion, they do not mistake impersonality for impartiality. The impersonality of their view is partly supported by the Reductionist View about the nature of persons. As Rawls writes, 'the correct regulative principle for anything depends upon the nature of that thing'.

Respect for Human Dignity (Cummiskey)

The intrinsic value of persons is best respected through utilitarian calculation of costs and benefits.

David Cummiskey (Associate Philosophy Professor at Bates College). “Kantian Consequentialism.” Ethics, Vol. 100, No. 3. 1990. http://www.jstor.org/stable/2381810.

We must not obscure the issue by characterizing this type of case as the sacrifice of individuals for some abstract “social entity.” It is not a question of some persons having to bear the cost for some elusive “overall social good.” Instead, the question is whether some persons must bear the inescapable cost for the sake of other persons. Robert Nozick, for example, argues that “to use a person in this way does not sufficiently respect and take account of the fact that he is a separate person, that his is the only life he has.” But why is this not equally true of all those whom we do not save through our failure to act? By emphasizing solely the one who must bear the cost if we act, we fail to sufficiently respect and take account of the many other separate persons, each with only one life, who will bear the cost of our inaction. In such a situation, what would a conscientious Kantian agent, an agent motivated by the unconditional value of rational beings, choose? A morally good agent recognizes that the basis of all particular duties is the principle that “rational nature exists as an end in itself” (GMM 429). Rational nature as such is the supreme objective end of all conduct. If one truly believes that all rational beings have an equal value, then the rational solution to such a dilemma involves maximally promoting the lives and liberties of as many rational beings as possible (chapter 5). In order to avoid this conclusion, the non-consequentialist Kantian needs to justify agent-centered constraints. As we saw in chapter 1, however, even most Kantian deontologists recognize that agent-centered constraints require a non- value-based rationale. But we have seen that Kant’s normative theory is based on an unconditionally valuable end. How can a concern for the value of rational beings lead to a refusal to sacrifice rational beings even when this would prevent other more extensive losses of rational beings? If the moral law is based on the value of rational beings and their ends, then what is the rationale for prohibiting a moral agent from maximally promoting these two tiers of value? If I sacrifice some for the sake of others, I do not use them arbitrarily, and I do not deny the unconditional value of rational beings. Persons may have “dignity, that is, an unconditional and incomparable worth” that transcends any market value (GMM 436), but persons also have a fundamental equality that dictates that some must sometimes give way for the sake of others (chapters 5 and 7). The concept of the end-in-itself does not support the view that we may never force another to bear some cost in order to benefit others. If one focuses on the equal value of all rational beings, then equal consideration suggests that one may have to sacrifice some to save many.

Universal Prescriptivism (Hare)

NECESSARY LINK: see page Universal Prescriptivism True

Consequentialism is the only universally prescriptive moral theory. 

R.M. Hare. Freedom and Reason, Oxford University Press, 1963, pg 122.

I mention these problems, not because I think that I can at present solve them, but simply in order that the reader may not think that I am unaware of them, or of other similar ones. I am concerned, not to develop a utilitarian theory, but simply to establish a point of contact between utilitarianism and the account of the nature of moral argument which I have been suggesting. Though unable, because of the difficulties interior to utilitarian theory, to state clearly and exactly what kind of utilitarianism if any will emerge, if the method of argument which I have outlined is developed to cover multilateral situations, I wish merely to point out that the logical character of moral language, as I have claimed it to be, is the formal foundation of such a theory. It is in the endeavour to find lines of conduct which we can prescribe universally in a given situation that we find ourselves bound to give equal weight to the desires of all parties (the foundation of distributive justice); and this, in turn, leads to such views as that we should seek to maximize satisfactions. For if my action is going to affect the interests of a number of people, and I ask myself what course of action I can prescribe universally for people in just this situation, then what I shall have to do, in order to answer this question, is to put myself imaginatively in the place of the other parties (or, if they are many, of a representative sample of them) and ask the same sort of questions as we made the creditor ask when he had imagined himself in the situation of his debtor. And the considerations that weigh with me in this inquiry can only be, how much (as I imagine myself in the place of each man in turn) do I want to have this, or to avoid that? But when I have been the round of all the affected parties, and come back, in my own person, to make an impartial moral judgment giving equal weight to the interests of all parties, what can I possibly do except advocate that course of action which will, taken all in all, least frustrate the desires which I have imagined myself having? But this (it is plausible to go on) is to maximize satisfactions.