According to Dimo414:

It seems to me that in a sense utilitarianism is a meta-ethic. I would claim that any ethical system can be reconstructed - without changing it's meaning or consequences - to be described in utilitarian terms.

Is this reasoning correct?

  • @Casebah, can you expand on your question?
    – Joseph Weissman
    Jun 17, 2011 at 0:41
  • @Joe: What would you like to know?
    – Casebash
    Jun 17, 2011 at 1:28
  • @Casebah could you tell us what about reasoning you are asking after? Just a little clarification so we can understand better how to help -- @dimo414's suggestion was pretty straightforward; at the very least you could reproduce more of the context of the claim
    – Joseph Weissman
    Jun 17, 2011 at 1:51
  • 3
    Yes, I agree with it. Of course, since it's an opinion, it's difficult to assess whether or not it is "correct". More to the point, I don't think "Is the following statement correct?" is a useful category of question to be asked here. You could literally ask this about anything, creating a template for a vast array of poor and ill-conceived questions. Jun 17, 2011 at 6:54

3 Answers 3


The problem with this approach is that it fails to distinguish between two completely different types of consequences. First, there are consequences that involve intrinsic goods, such as telling the truth and not killing. Second, there are more indirect consequences in which we might say that the ends justify the means – such as stealing a loaf of bread to feed one’s starving family. True morality should focus on intrinsic goods, without attempting to counterbalance these against the second and more indirect type of consequences.

At the close of World War II, President Harry Truman used consequentialist reasoning when deciding to drop atomic bombs on the Japanese civilians. On one side of the balance, Truman placed the negative consequence of killing tens of thousands of innocent Japanese civilians. On the other side of the balance, Truman considered that the bombs would bring a quick end to the war, and thus serve as a useful means to an end. Believing that the latter reasoning was more weighty, he decided to drop the bombs – a murderous decision.

Thus, consequentialism is not only flawed but even hazardous when applied to decisions like this.


I believe that Yeah. In the link you provided, all of the attempt is to put fuzzy logic (a continuum) on the right and wrong (good and bad). Not all good things are good the same level and not all bad things are bad the same level.

As much as I know about moral frameworks (ethical, or deontlogical systems) like Utilitarianism, Epicurean Philosophy, Satisfaction-based moralities, Islam, Christianity, etc. all put different values for different good and bad acts.

But first let see what utilitarianism is all about? From Microsoft Encarta Dictionary we have:

the ethical doctrine that the greatest happiness of the greatest number should be the criterion of the virtue of action.

Microsoft® Encarta® 2009. © 1993-2008 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.

Thus utilitarianism is really a fuzzy ethical system. If what you do makes people happy by 20 points, while what I do make'em happy by 50 points, then my action is better than yours. It's that simple.

Now, as I said, this holds true in almost all ethical systems without being regenerated or re-constructed.

Hope that I was clear enough :)


This is certainly true in a question begging sense. Because consequentialism requires a ranking of all possible worlds, one can rank them by the degree to which they conform to a chosen system of ethics.

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