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Is Act-Utilitarianism the ‘Ethics of Fantasy’?

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Act-utilitarianism is often criticised as an unreasonably demanding moral philosophy that commits agents to a life of ceaseless and depersonalizing do-gooding. In this essay I argue in Sidgwickian vein that the strenuousness of act-utilitarianism has been greatly exaggerated, and that the practical demands of the doctrine in the contemporary world are closer to those of common-sense morality than such critics as Derek Parfit and Brad Hooker allow.

Document Type: Original Article


Affiliations: University of Durham

Publication date: January 1, 1998

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