So what’s this utility anyway?

When asked about my political orientation, I tend to describe myself first as a libertarian, second as a minarchist, and, finally, as a utilitarian. The first term is something people aren’t usually acquainted with, and if they are, think the thing’s pretty far in the fringe. The second, practically nobody outside the libertarian circuit knows what that is all about. But utilitarian, surprisingly many have the requisite philosophy courses in their belt. That’s how they know utilitarianism is something very old and largely irrelevant in the modern world, suffers from fundamental contradictions and leads to immorality.

That ain’t what utilitarianism is about. By a long shot. This essay is my attempt at charting some of the vast utilitarian landscape out there, and also my own thoughts on how the idea might develop in the future.

Bentham, Mill and the lot

‐stabs at a real felicific calculus

An ad hoc systematic

‐rule vs. act utilitarianism ‐morality vs. shared ethics ‐cardinal vs. ordinal utility ‐single utility vs. multiple specific utilities ‐free‐standing utilitarianism vs. versions tempered with side constraints ‐hedonism vs. eudaemonism vs. more exalted forms of utility

Some relevant casuistry

Ways ahead