Can Utilitarianism Be Defended Against The Injustice Objection?

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Can Utilitarianism be defended against the Injustice Objection? In this essay, I will argue that utilitarianism cannot be defended against the injustice objection. Utilitarians may be able to reply to the injustice objection in some cases by invoking one of two replies, the ‘Long term consequences’ reply, in which utilitarians will avoid unjust actions that increase short-term utility because in the long-term they will not lead to the greatest good. The other reply that may help utilitarianism avoid injustice in some cases is the ‘Secondary principles’ reply, where some rule-based principles such as not murdering (because it generally decreases happiness) may avoid injustice. However, I will focus on the ‘bite the bullet’ objection, …show more content…

An example of this is in the case of R v Dudley and Stephens (1884), where Dudley, Stephens, and Brookes ate the cabin boy Parker, after they were shipwrecked for 24 days at sea. Although this act maximised utility for the most people, Parker’s rights were infringed upon as he did not agree to being killed and eaten. Therefore when we add up the pain and pleasures of all those affected we may end up infringing someone’s rights. The act that maximises utility may cause unhappiness and misery for the minority.

There are three standard replies to the injustice objection. The first being the ‘Long term consequences’ objection, where a person following utilitarianism is not obligated to commit an injustice, and that person should take into account the long term consequences of their actions. An example I would like to refer to is the harvesting organs example. Where there are five sick people in hospital and they all need organ transplants, at the same time a sixth patient is undergoing a routine checkup. A transplant surgeon finds that the only way of saving the five would be to kill the sixth person and harvest their organs. Utilitarianism would state that we should harvest the organs of person 6 without his permission to save the lives of the five other people who are dying. A utilitarian would explain that the action of

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