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Utilitarianism and the role of utility in Adam Smith

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In this paper we confront attempts to bring Smith closer to utilitarianism. We show that Smith's conception of utility is not utilitarian. While the pursuit of ‘pleasure’ could lie behind human behaviour, it is not the pleasure referred to by utilitarianism. Instead, utility, in its colloquial sense, plays a greater role that suggests a type of consideration which is foreign to utilitarianism and which also introduces a rationalist element to Smith's moral analysis. Thus, utility, in the utilitarian sense, is neither a guide to action nor a means for moral evaluation.
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Keywords: Smith; Utilitarianism; sympathy; utility

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: August 1, 2013

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