Utilitarianism Versus Rawls Versus Nozick

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Utilitarianism Versus Rawls Versus Nozick

By | Feb. 2008
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Utilitarianism is fine if your among the winners justice is better if you are not

Utilitarianism is the moral philosophy that the morally right action is that which leads to the greatest happiness for the greatest number of people. The term justice means getting what you deserve both good and bad. However there is significant disagreement between justice theorists as to what causes who to deserve what. In this essay I will be discussing John Rawls' concept of contract justice and Robert Nozick's concept of justice as entitlement. All political theories can be said to benefit some groups in society more than other and so there are winners and losers to all political philosophies.

Utilitarianism is a moral philosophy first advocated by Jeremy Bentham. It argues that the morally right action is that which creates the greatest happiness for the greatest number of people (Smart1973). Hence it could be described as a consequentialist theory of morality to which the goal is human happiness. Although utilitarianism can be used to make individual moral decisions for the purposes of this essay I will be referring to political utilitarianism: the morally right law or policy for a government to enact is that which leads to the greatest happiness to the greatest number. There have been many subsequent versions of utilitarianism that aim to make up for the shortcomings of the original form each of which have their own shortcomings and subsequent theories to compensate for them. These include:

Rule utilitarianism states that the morally right action is that which if consistently done in that situation would on balance lead to the greatest happiness for the greatest number (Smart 1973). This theory arose as a response to the criticism that certain actions when performed in isolation might maximize utility but if done repeatedly would lead to an overall loss of utility. For example a government refusing to pay its national debts and instead using the money to feed the...

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