How insights from different moral philosophies can help us find common ground

Should we tax the wealthy to help the poor? Should we try to eat less meat? Should abortion be legal? These are all questions that ultimately boil down to ethics. Moral philosophers have proposed different methods for answering them, but none seem to satisfy everyone. One of the most intuitive method is perhaps utilitarianism, a moral theory that tries to minimize harm and maximize well-being. In the absence of a universally accepted method, we seem to default to some version of utilitarianism, unless it conflicts with the religious and ideological convictions of a sufficiently large number of people, in which…


Why disagreements don’t prove morality is relative

Checker shadow illusion

This is the ninth of a series of articles defending a compatibilist interpretation of utilitarianism, which can be reconciled with all major moral theories. In the last article, I explain why the concepts of rights and moral desert are only valuable insofar as they contribute to a happier society. Follow me on social media and subscribe to my newsletter in order to be notified about the next articles in the series.

If morality is universal as I claim, then how come we differ so much on our gut level judgements? As I have argued before:

The best action is always…


Why we should avoid unverifiable moral claims

We should avoid magical thinking when discussing morality.

This is the eighth of a series of articles defending a compatibilist interpretation of utilitarianism, which can be reconciled with all major moral theories. In the last article, I explain why utilitarianism is not as demanding as it may seem. Follow me on social media and subscribe to my newsletter in order to be notified about the next articles in the series.

Logical positivism was a philosophical movement that attempted to approach philosophy as rationally as possible. Inspired by the success of the natural sciences, they concluded that philosophical claims that cannot be empirically verified are nothing but meaningless metaphysics…


Why utilitarianism is not as demanding as you may think

Silas self-flagellating in the movie The Da Vinci Code

This is the seventh of a series of articles defending a compatibilist interpretation of utilitarianism, which can be reconciled with all major moral theories. In the last article, I explain why utilitarianism doesn’t justify extreme injustice and inequality. Follow me on social media and subscribe to my newsletter in order to be notified about the next articles in the series.

Utilitarianism is the intuitive moral philosophy that promotes the greatest happiness for the greatest number. A common objection brought up against it, however, is that it is too demanding. A theory that entails that I should let my child die…


Why exploiting minorities is not utilitarian

Anna Xuan’s illustration of the short story “Those Who Walk Away From Omelas”, by Ursula K. Le Guin

This is the sixth of a series of articles defending a compatibilist interpretation of utilitarianism, which can be reconciled with all major moral theories. In the last article, I explain why some types of suffering deserve more attention than others. Follow me on social media and subscribe to my newsletter in order to be notified about the next articles in the series.

Utilitarianism is the moral philosophy that promotes the greatest happiness for the greatest number. One of the objections critics raise against it, however, is that it justifies unfairness. Fairness or justice can be interpreted in a couple of…


Why some types of suffering deserve more attention than others

This is the fifth of a series of articles defending a compatibilist interpretation of utilitarianism, which can be reconciled with all major moral theories. In the last article, I explain why rules are important for utilitarians. Follow me on social media and subscribe to my newsletter in order to be notified about the next articles in the series.

Utilitarianism is the moral philosophy that promotes the greatest happiness for the greatest number. According to this view, if an action doesn’t cause any suffering, it should be morally permissible. But what if an action that relieves the suffering of person A…


Should we ever break rules for the greater good?

This is the fourth of a series of articles defending a compatibilist interpretation of utilitarianism, which can be reconciled with all major moral theories. In the last article, I explain why utilitarians are concerned with intentions, even though they’re consequentialists. Follow me on social media and subscribe to my newsletter in order to be notified about the next articles in the series.

Utilitarianism is the moral philosophy that promotes the greatest happiness for the greatest number. Although this philosophy seems very intuitive at first, many object saying that sometimes it just feels wrong to do the thing that minimizes suffering…


Why intentions are important even for utilitarians

This is the third of a series of articles defending a compatibilist interpretation of utilitarianism, which can be reconciled with all major moral theories. In the last article, I explain how utilitarianism is compatible with virtue ethics. Follow me on social media and subscribe to my newsletter in order to be notified about the next articles in the series.

Utilitarianism is the moral philosophy that promotes the greatest happiness for the greatest number. It is a consequentialist moral philosophy, and for this reason many make the mistake of assuming that it only cares about consequences, while ignoring intentions. In fact…


Virtues are traits that contribute to a better society

🎙 This article is also available in Podcast format.

This is the second of a series of articles defending a compatibilist interpretation of utilitarianism, which can be reconciled with all major moral theories. In the last article, I explain what utilitarians mean when they talk about “pain” and “pleasure”. Follow me on social media and subscribe to my newsletter in order to be notified about the next articles in the series.

Virtue, then, being of two kinds, intellectual and moral, intellectual virtue in the main owes both its birth and its growth to teaching (for which reason it requires experience…


What utilitarians mean when they promote pleasure over pain

🎙 This article is also available in Podcast format.

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BDSM toys on red sheets

Utilitarianism is a moral philosophy proposed by Jeremy Bentham (1748–1832) and later developed by John Stuart Mill (1806–1873) and others. Bentham and Mill were progressive British philosophers who were pioneers in the fight for the abolition of slavery, for women’s rights and even for LGBT and animal rights, which were extremely unpopular causes in their time. The defining principle of utilitarianism is quite simple: the right thing to do is always the thing that minimizes pain and maximizes pleasure.

To many, the principle of utility sounds so obvious at first as…

Ariel Pontes

Secular-humanist, M.A. in analytic philosophy, volunteer at @YoungHumanIntl, blogger at ghostlessmachine.com. Support me at http://bit.ly/ArielPatreon.

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